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Morocco: Government Decides to Ease Restrictions Aimed at Curbing Spread of COVID-19

(June 24, 2020) On June 9, 2020, the prime minister of Morocco, Saadeddine El Otmani, announced that the country would start easing restrictions that had been put in place to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The prime minister stated that he would lift all restrictions completely by July 10, 2020. Morocco has been on lockdown since March 20, 2020.

During his meeting with the Parliament on the following day, the prime minister announced that traveling among provinces would be allowed; shops, cafes, and restaurants could open in areas where infection rates were lower; and efforts aimed at recovering local tourism would begin. He added that the easing of the lockdown was made possible because of the sufficient stock of medical equipment, the increase in the number of screenings, and the continuation of the system for tracing COVID-19. Additionally, on June 13, the Interior and Health Ministries issued a joint statement announcing that the process of gradually lifting the lockdown would be accelerated beginning June 20. As of June 23, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases in Morocco had reached 10,264, along with 214 deaths.

Morocco’s Preventive Measures in Chronological Order

Since March 2020, the Kingdom of Morocco has adopted a number of restrictions to reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections.

On March 20, 2020, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement declaring a state of emergency, which would be enforced by the country’s armed forces. In the statement, the Ministry informed Moroccan citizens that they could not go out to public spaces without authorization from local authorities and were required to fill out an “exceptional movement permit” before leaving their homes to go to work, buy groceries and medicine, or receive medical care. However, individuals who were deemed essential, such as persons working in grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, medical clinics, and telecommunications companies, were given permission to move about as necessary.

On March 22, the Ministry announced that public transportation would be suspended as of March 24. The Ministry also announced that individuals traveling between provinces had to provide to the security authorities a justification for their travel. Likewise, Morocco’s national airlines, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), suspended all domestic and international flights. On June 22, the airlines announced that, as of June 25, a limited number of domestic flights would be resumed and gradually increased. International flights remained suspended, however.

On April 2, the Moroccan Armed Forces completed the construction of the first field hospital to host COVID-19 patients in Benslimane, near Casablanca. The capacity of the hospital is 260 beds. The Ministry of Education also announced on the same day that its educational website, hosting remote classes during the country’s school suspension, had reached 600,000 users per day. Classes in schools had been suspended since March 16.

On April 8, King Mohammed VI ordered the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to exempt tenants of Islamic Endowment premises from paying monthly rent. The Islamic Endowment, under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, manages properties rented to hundreds of thousands of small business owners across the country.

On April 9, the Moroccan Ministries of Health and Industry issued a joint statement urging companies and industrial firms to provide their employees with protective face masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

On April 20, the Ministry of Industry introduced new regulations for the manufacturing of protective masks. Previously, the Ministry had required that facemasks be made of non-woven fabric. Under the new regulations, the masks had to be made from virgin polypropylene and composed of three superimposed filterable layers of non-woven fabric to cover users’ noses, mouths, and chins. Violators of the regulation would be subject to a fine and legal action.

On April 21, the Supreme Scientific Council urged Moroccan citizens to adhere to lockdown measures during the holy month of Ramadan. In a press release, the council requested Muslim Moroccans to perform Taraweeh prayers (special prayers taking place in the month of Ramadan) at home instead of mosques to prevent the spread of the virus among worshipers.  

On May 8, the upper house of the Moroccan Parliament approved Law 2.20.292 on Morocco’s state of emergency. The law imposes penalties against persons violating the state of emergency with one to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of 300–1,300 Moroccan dirhams (about US$30–132).

On May 11, the Ministries of Health and Interior announced during an online press conference their plan to launch a mobile app called “ Wiqaytna” (Our Safety) to trace COVID-19 infections. The spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior announced that usage of the app would be voluntary, but citizens were encouraged to install the app on their phone. The mobile app uses Bluetooth on the device to share encrypted and anonymous information between users’ smartphones. If a user tests positive for COVID-19 in the 21 days following the contact, other users receive a notification. On June 6, 2020, the Ministry of Health announced that the mobile app had been installed one million times since it was launched on June 1.

On May 20, the Supreme Scientific Council issued a statement urging Moroccan citizens to perform their Eid prayers at home instead of in a group at mosques as is customary at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan.

On May 28, the Ministries of Health and Labor announced that they had established guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces. The guidelines assist employers in implementing precautionary measures, protecting the health of their employees, and ensuring work continuity. They also set forth measures to be adopted by employers to protect the cleanliness of the workplace, provide employees with transportation and access to workplaces, and offer health care to employees with COVID-19 symptoms. Under the guidelines, each employer must create a prevention plan to reduce the risks of infection while employees carry out their work activities. The prevention plan aims at reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure. The prevention plan is to cover not just employees but also customers, visitors, suppliers, and subcontractors.