02 – 08 November, 2020 | Morocco Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

November 09, 2020

Vaccine against Covid in Morocco: origin, timeframes, targets… What do we know so far?

King Mohammed VI ordered on Monday, November 9, the start of the anti-Covid vaccination, which will be a mass vaccination. Here’s what we already know about this vaccination campaign

Which vaccine? The communiqué of the Royal Cabinet does not indicate which vaccine is involved. Nevertheless, here are some clues:

  • Sinopharm’s Chinese vaccine: part of the phase 3 trials took place in Morocco, involving 600 volunteers. According to reliable sources, these trials in Morocco showed few adverse effects and very good efficacy. The trials in Morocco will be fully completed by 15 November. The vaccine has been tested on 50,000 people outside China (Morocco, Emirates, Bahrain, Peru, Argentina) and nearly a million people in China, according to our sources.
    Participating in phase 3 clinical trials has enabled Morocco to conclude a contract with the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm for the supply of 10 million doses before the end of 2020 and probably more in 2021.
  • The contract with Astra Zeneca provides for the supply of 17 million doses with an option for a further 3 million doses.
    -Morocco has also contacted CanSino Bio, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, other candidate vaccine producers, to source their supplies. At this stage, we do not know if these contacts have been successful.
    In light of the above, the vaccine referred to in the Royal firm’s press release is probably Sinopharm’s Chinese vaccine.
    All these vaccines, except the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, require two doses. In the case of Sinopharm, the two doses will be taken 21 days apart. This makes the campaign very difficult to organise, as it is necessary to ensure that everyone receives their second dose. It also means that when you buy 10 million doses, you are vaccinating 5 million people.
    Another complication: All of these vaccines, except the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, require storage between minus 60 and minus 80 degrees Celsius during transport and storage. This makes the logistical organisation very complex.
    How many people to vaccinate : The WHO has recommended starting with health personnel, security forces, public services and finally vulnerable categories (age and/or chronic disease factors). It has also recommended that the under-18s be vaccinated in 2022. This is what Morocco will do.
    Based on the real prevalence of infections (around 5% minimum), Morocco could be content to vaccinate 65% of the over 18s. The target that has been set is more ambitious: 80%.
    On the basis of data from the HCP population clock showing a global population of 36 million and knowing that the under 18s represent 33.6% of the population, Morocco therefore plans to vaccinate 19 million people (80% of the 23.9 million people aged over 18). This calculation is approximate. It would therefore require 36 to 40 million doses.
    When? Vaccination will last a maximum of 4 months, so it should end in mid-April if it starts in mid-December.
    Vaccination will not be compulsory. But in the long term, it will be difficult not to get vaccinated, if you want to be internationally mobile. Vaccination against covid will probably be required at the entry of all countries.
    Organisation: Morocco has been preparing its strategy for several weeks. This strategy is broken down region by region, commune by commune.
    The Ministry of Health will of course be in the front line. But also the Interior, the DGST (which has played a discreet but fundamental role in the field since the outbreak of the epidemic), the FAR and the gendarmerie.
    A technical and scientific vaccination committee will supervise the operation and will have the latitude to calculate the target population, the priorities, the people to be vaccinated, the duration of the operation, in the form of a campaign or normal vaccination, the period to be chosen, how to amortize this period, and how to organize it in the Covid context, avoiding gatherings. There will be many other issues such as the time frame in relation to a flu vaccine.
    Cost of the vaccine: According to our sources, for people covered by health insurance, the Ministry of Health is currently studying with the ANAM the setting up of the reimbursement of the price of the vaccine. For people not covered, information is not yet available at this stage.
    Safety, efficacy, immunogenicity: no vaccine will be authorised in the world without a minimum efficacy of 50%. Undesirable side effects must be mild or bearable.
    One last piece of advice: this is not the time to slacken off, now that we can see the end of the tunnel within a few months. To top it all off, in the last few weeks, a slackening will cause an epidemic outbreak.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 08, 2020

Casablanca: What measures have been taken following the saturation of hospitals and IS beds?

There is nothing more to hide. The epidemiological situation in the metropolis is “very worrying”. The city of Casablanca, which is the nucleus of the Casablanca-Settat region, has had an average of 2,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases a day for more than two weeks, in addition to about ten deaths a day.

The Regional Director of Health for Casablanca-Settat, Dr. Nabila Rmili, even drew a “blackboard” picture of the epidemiological situation in Casablanca, during a recent session held at the Casablanca Prefecture Council. In the presence of the Wali of the CS region, Saïd Ahmidouch, the person in charge at the Ministry of Health revealed that the epidemiological situation in the economic capital is “very worrying”, not forgetting that coronavirus infections are increasing day by day and in a frightening way.î

During this session devoted to the ratification of an agreement on the financing of the provisional Coronavirus field hospital, Dr. Nabila Rmili said in a presentation that the health authorities will have to face, in the coming period, an increase in the number of cases, due to the seasonal flu period, which coincides with the winter season.

The official stressed that the health services are working hard, in collaboration with the local authorities, to improve health care provision and deal with this epidemic, but also to deal with the developments that may occur over the next two months due to seasonal flu and the spread of certain diseases.

To this end, orders have been given to the health authorities to begin equipping the provisional field hospital with the necessary means and equipment for intensive care, in anticipation of what may happen in the coming days, Dr. Rmili said, adding that work will be carried out at this hospital to reinforce the intensive care unit with oxygen through tubes instead of the existing system of vials, which has to be replaced every two hours. Instructions have therefore been sent to those in charge of the Casablanca-Settat region to ensure that only critical cases requiring ICU are received in the coming days, to avoid overwhelming the temporary field hospital with moderate or asymptomatic cases that can be treated at home.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 07, 2020

France requires a “compulsory PCR test” for travellers from Morocco

In France, to cope with the exponential spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, new health restrictions will come into force starting next week.

Thus, from Wednesday 11 November, all travellers coming from Morocco will be obliged to present a PCR test dated less than 72 hours (from the date of the sample), announced the French embassy in Rabat in a tweet.

These obligations will apply to air and sea transport. Children under the age of 11 will remain exempt from the test, according to the same source.

Tests to detect Covid-19 will be set up in French airports. Mandatory and rapid, they will be deployed for passengers arriving from abroad, except for those coming from European states, announced last Monday the French Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili.

“Travellers will be tested on arrival and will have their results a few minutes later, unless they have a PCR test of less than 72 hours prior to their departure,” the minister said, adding that for some countries, these tests are already required before boarding.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Resurgence of coronavirus: two options for Morocco

Faced with the resurgence of COVID-19 in Morocco, Azeddine Ibrahimi, director of the biotechnology laboratory of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rabat, indicates the course of action to be taken by the government.

The specialist believes that Morocco could opt for the strategy of “flexible generalised containment” with the resulting socio-economic impacts, or the “disciplinary approach” towards health instructions. In his opinion, the time has come to implement a new strategy based on the scientific approach.

This professor of biotechnology explained to the Map that such an approach is based on an in-depth analysis of the health situation (contaminations, lethality, cases in resuscitation, outbreaks) and the definition of specific and global objectives. For him, flexible generalised containment remains a likely option for achieving the objectives set.

The expert also looked at the current state of the pandemic. He pointed out that the virus is spreading rapidly and that the number of cases of contamination recorded in the kingdom is constantly increasing. “This is a situation that was not expected in the worst-case scenarios,” he lamented.

“If nothing changes, we risk having about 2,000 patients in intensive care by mid-November, which represents almost all of the ICU capacity,” Ibrahimi warned.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Pharmacists lack flu vaccines

The first few days of the flu vaccination campaign will be trying for the Casablancais. Indeed, pharmacists in Casablanca have received a very small amount of vaccine.

“We only received one… It’s ridiculous! “exclaims one of them to his colleagues. “I’ve just received five units and five vaccination cards but no identification,” says another. “I’ve only received one, with no indication, no identifier or password,” adds a third pharmacist, reports h24info.ma. However, according to a circular dated 1ᵉʳ November from the Ministry of Health (n°563/DMP00), “movements of vaccine stocks must be entered”, particularly by dispensing pharmacies, on a dedicated platform, using an identifier and password normally provided by the wholesaler, says the same source.

Of the 650,000 doses of flu vaccine ordered by the kingdom, it was planned that 350,000 doses would be destined for dispensing pharmacies for the general public. However, Morocco has only received 200,000 doses so far, which turns the forecast upside down. According to the new distribution, 100,000 for dispensaries and public structures, and 100,000 for dispensary pharmacies. The 100,000 doses missing from this first delivery (300,000 doses in total) should arrive in the coming days. With an approximate number of 12,000 pharmacies spread across the country, this is equivalent to about eight doses given to each pharmacy.

“The quantity requested is not enough for all pharmacists. Wholesalers themselves have not received enough. Today, the majority of pharmacists in Casablanca have received five but it will increase thereafter,” says Abdelali Bensalah, president of the Pharmaceutical Union of the Hay Moulay Rachid district. Refuting the hypothesis of favouritism of wholesalers towards certain pharmacists, the union leader says that “the distribution of doses depends on the quantity received by wholesalers. There are some who receive 6,000, others 3,000… There are pharmacies that work with four or five wholesalers, so they necessarily receive more.

Moreover, Mr. Rachid underlines the novelty of this year’s flu vaccine, a quadrivalent version with four strains of influenza virus instead of two in previous years. To this end, he says, “the department wants to take it slow and not vaccinate too many people at once” because, “we don’t know how people will react to this vaccine. This is also why they imposed the ordinance, to maintain traceability,” says Abdelali Bensalah, adding that “with the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for the flu vaccine has risen sharply. For its part, after having launched Monday the national campaign of prevention against influenza, the Ministry of Health said that this campaign targets people at risk of serious complications or even death related to influenza, including pregnant women, people suffering from chronic diseases.
For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

King Mohammed VI warns against Polisario manoeuvres in El Guerguerate and areas east of the wall

King Mohammed VI this evening delivered the traditional speech commemorating the launch of the Green March 45 years ago by the late Hassan II. The speech was mainly devoted to the Sahara issue.
The sovereign welcomed the “tangible developments” that this issue is experiencing on the international scene. At the UN level, he was pleased that “the outdated and unrealistic approaches and theses have been definitively annihilated by the adoption of the latest Security Council resolutions”. The monarch refers here to the abandonment of the referendum option by the UN executive body.
An advantage consolidating the positions of the kingdom that is accompanied by the confirmation of “the effective participation of the real parties involved in this regional conflict and they have consecrated the irreversibility of the political, realistic and consensual solution,” said the king.

 For the record, the two editions of the Geneva roundtable, December 2018 and March 2019, had been attended by Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario. A principle that the latest resolution (2548) of the Security Council has included.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 06, 2020

EESC recommends the creation of a permanent crisis fund

The Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC) recommends, in a study published Thursday, the creation of a permanent fund to deal with major crises.

Through permanent insurance mechanisms, this fund will enable the state to pool risks and mitigate the effects on companies, the EESC says in the study, which looks at “The health, economic and social impacts of the covid-19 virus and possible levers for action”.

Thus, the Council recommends financing this fund in the long term through various mechanisms, including the taxation of non-productive capital and the allocation of a percentage of general revenue, depending on the rate of growth achieved. It also calls for appropriate management of the fund through specific regulations.

This study is part of a dual dynamic, marked by the need to address the health crisis and its repercussions on the one hand, and the need to put in place a renewed development model for Morocco on the other.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Royal speech postponed due to a case of coronavirus in the technical team in charge of recording the speech

Originally scheduled for Friday at 9 pm, the King’s speech on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Green March has been postponed to Saturday due to the discovery of a positive case of coronavirus in the technical team in charge of recording and broadcasting the speech.

Here is the press release from the Ministry of the Royal Household, Protocol and Chancellery:

“Following the discovery of a positive case at Covid-19 in the technical team in charge of recording and broadcasting the Royal Speech on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Green March, and in view of the strict health protocols and measures that are required in this regard, the Royal Speech will be addressed by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, may God assist him, on Saturday 7 November 2020 and transmitted on radio and television at 21H00.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 05, 2020

118 million euros from the ADB in Morocco

This funding, which aims to strengthen Morocco’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is an extension of the support programme for the improvement of social protection (PAAPS), approved at the end of 2019, for nearly €183 million, according to an AfDB press release.

In order to mitigate the shock of the health crisis and enable rapid and effective care for patients, the programme will support the upgrading of Morocco’s health infrastructure and further strengthen its intervention capacities.

It will also help ensure continuity of quality care offered by the country’s specialized units. In the long term, the aim is to strengthen the resilience of the Kingdom’s health system.

“We are doing our utmost to help Morocco meet this unprecedented challenge,” said Mohamed El Azizi, the Bank’s Managing Director for North Africa, adding that “our priority is to support the Kingdom’s health response to this pandemic. This effort will continue, in the longer term, to strengthen the resilience of the country’s health system to new crises”.

In concrete terms, the support programme will enable the acquisition of 666 additional intensive units beds in order to reach a total capacity of 1,350 equipped beds. It will also provide Morocco with a sufficient quantity of screening tests and pharmaceutical products and devices. In addition, 78 hospital emergency units will have their technical platforms upgraded.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

The state of health emergency extended until December 10

The state of public health emergency, which has been in place since 2020, has been extended for a further month, until 10 December, as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The decision was taken at the Council of Government meeting held on Thursday 5 November.

In detail, the Council of Government approved the draft decree 2.20.788 on the extension of the state of health emergency for another month. This decision will be effective throughout the national territory from Tuesday 10 November 2020 at 18:00 until Thursday 10 December 2020 at 18:00.

It will enable the authorities to take all the necessary measures and ensure their effective application, with a view to dealing with the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic throughout the Kingdom.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 04, 2020

COVID-19, Costs borne by the AMO

The National Health Insurance Agency (ANAM) has announced that COVID-19 will be reimbursed and covered under the basic compulsory health insurance scheme.

“As part of the urgent measures taken to deal with the exceptional health situation, marked by the spread of the pandemic linked to COVID-19, that our country is experiencing, and in view of the missions assigned to the National Health Insurance Agency, The therapeutic protocol for COVID-19 treatment approved by the Minister of Health has been distributed to the organisations managing compulsory health insurance (CNOPS-CNSS), health professionals and all those involved in basic medical coverage in Morocco, along with the fee schedule for services,” ANAM stated in a press release.

It should be remembered that this evolving protocol, which lists all clinical cases, defines the examinations required for the diagnosis and monitoring of COVID-19, and the related treatments, explains the press release, specifying that the fee schedule sets the rate for each service and each category of clinical case, by sector of activity (public and private).

Reimbursement and coverage will be in accordance with the regulations and guidelines in force, in particular the national conventions, the nomenclatures of the procedures and the guide to reimbursable medicines, stresses the same source, adding that the protocol and the fee schedule can be consulted at www.anam.ma.

In addition, this protocol will make it possible to consolidate the treatment of insured persons and beneficiaries of the Compulsory Health Insurance (AMO) who suffer from Covid-19 and will constitute a reference for reimbursement and treatment, as well as for the exercise of medical control, in order to avoid possible abuses and overruns, notes the press release.

In this respect, it should be emphasised that failure to comply with the provisions of this reference system may be the subject of a complaint to the ANAM, in particular through the “chikaya” platform set up on the Agency’s website at “http://anam.chikaya.ma”, it is assured, adding that all complaints received will be dealt with in accordance with the regulations in force.

For further information, please consult (in French) the following link.

A record 82 deaths and 5,745 positive cases in 24 hours, 235,310 in total

The number of contaminations and deaths due to Covid-19 has reached a new record. Some 82 new deaths and 5,745 new cases of infection with the new coronavirus have been recorded in Morocco in the last 24 hours until Wednesday, November 4 at 6 p.m., bringing the total number of positive cases to 235,310 since the first case reported on March 2, 2020, said the Ministry of Health in its daily Covid-19 bulletin.

The cumulative incidence rate is 648/100,000 inhabitants, and 15.8/100,000 inhabitants over 24 hours, according to the bulletin published on the Ministry’s website.

Cases registered in the last 24 hours were recorded in the following regions: Casablanca-Settat (2478), Rabat-Salé-Kénitra (896), l’Oriental (781), Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima (379), Marrakech-Safi (290), Souss-Massa (257), Béni Mellal-Khénifra (182), Drâa-Tafilalet (144), Dakhla-Oued Ed Dahab (132), Fès-Meknès (90), Guelmim-Oued Noun (66) and Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra (50), details the same source.

The total number of excluded cases has reached 3,174,743 since the beginning of the pandemic, the same source adds.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 03, 2020

Reconfinement, “an option” according to El Othmani (Head of Government)

The head of government Saâd Dine El Othmani answered on Tuesday an oral question to Parliament about a possible return of containment.

A return of containment in Morocco is not to be excluded. This is basically what the head of government, Saad Dine El Othmani, who was answering an oral question Tuesday in Parliament.

“We hope not to reconfine the country. But it is an option,” he told the House of Councillors. “Our country is like the rest of the world. We are living with the impact of the coronavirus crisis. This is the second wave. This is what has prompted us to extend the state of emergency in the kingdom six times,” he said.

“The numbers force us to do it. Internationally, countries are suffering more than in the first wave. This has led some countries to announce a new confinement. This is having an impact on the economy on a global scale. Nationally, we have taken the necessary measures since the beginning of the crisis to avoid the worst,” he added.

On the economic front, El Othmani warned that the consequences of the pandemic are likely to last. “Economically and socially, things have been shaken up because of the impact of Covid-19. The impact will also be felt in 2021. The economic situation of the country is complicated, but it must be said that the worst has been avoided thanks to the economic balances found before the arrival of the pandemic”.

“Finally, I would like to recall the words of King Mohammed VI in parliament, who insisted that we all align ourselves in the same line, hand in hand to survive this pandemic,” he concluded.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

Withdrawal of licence to 5 bio-medical analysis laboratories

Morocco has withdrawn the licence for COVID-19 tests from five bio-medical analysis laboratories in Fez, Rabat and El Jadida. They are accused of failing to comply with the specifications.

This decision, which does not meet with unanimous approval among biologists, was taken following an inspection by the Ministry of Health, reports La Vie Eco. According to these biologists, to obtain this licence, it is necessary to have an average of 1 million DH to invest in the rental of a building that can house the headquarters, the purchase of equipment, and the recruitment of qualified staff to carry out these tests.

They do not approve the withdrawal of the licence which comes in the middle of a period of rising new contaminations. For these biotechnology specialists, this period calls for more tests to be carried out and therefore more laboratories to carry them out.

According to Zineb Zniber, President of the Council of Pharmacist-Biologists, membership of this network requires sufficient space to set up three separate technical rooms dedicated to analysis and separated from the rest of the laboratory. “She will need to acquire the PCR platform equipment, reagents and consumables. Then apply to the Ministry of Health. After checking all these standards, the ministry will issue the authorisation,” she added.

To date, Morocco has around thirty laboratories authorised on the basis of the specifications drawn up by the supervisory ministry. It sets the requirements for carrying out the COVID-19 diagnosis by qRT Pcr, which costs 680 DH in a private laboratory.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.

November 02, 2020

Health department denies death of covid+ patients due to lack of oxygen

The Ministry of Health on Monday denied reports of deaths of patients with new coronavirus at the Duc de Tovar hospital in Tangier. According to data relayed the day before, the tragedy was linked to a cut in oxygen, which the ministry considers to be an “unfounded” story.
Contrary to the advanced versions, on Sunday, “the hospital knew the installation of a second oxygen tank with a larger capacity, to support the infrastructure and meet the needs of the hospital, in anticipation of any emergency situation,” said a statement reached Yabiladi, where the administration of the hospital structure “categorically denies” any cut.
The ministry notes that the deaths recorded, “three in number”, were related to complications in patients with new coronavirus, but “were not related to a lack of oxygen”.
The hospital management also told Le360 that medical staff were preparing to receive a large number of COVID-19 patients, which necessitated a larger stock of oxygen upstream.
“We have opened a new ICU unit, providing 8 additional beds, so we have changed the small containers for large ones, so as not to fall into a possible shortage and to avoid having to resort to deliveries twice a day from the cities of Casablanca and Berrechid,” the administration added.
This denial comes after several news sites reported deaths due to oxygen shortages in the hospital. According to the local media Tanja News and Mobachir, “patients were on artificial respirators in the intensive care unit of the Covid-19 ward in the aforementioned hospital before oxygen was suddenly cut off”, which would have led to sudden death.
Among the victims were women, a policeman and a trade unionist from the Moroccan Labour Union (UMT), according to Mobachir, who has since rectified the information. For its part, the site Tanja News had reported that “at least six people died on Saturday at the hospital Duc De Tovar in Tangier, following a lack of oxygen”.

For more information, please consult (in French) the following link.