January 05-11 , 2021 | Press review Morocco

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

January 11, 2021

How the people of Oujda celebrate Amazigh New Year’s Day

The Amazighs are getting ready to celebrate the New Year’s Day “Id Yennayer” scheduled for the night of January 12 to 13. In Oujda, the inhabitants take care to respect an ancestral tradition which is to concoct the famous pastry “Berkoukech” and get supplies of dried fruits. This is what Hmida Kelai, a shopkeeper in a market in this Oriental town, tells us.

“During this Amazigh New Year, and despite the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oujdis try to buy some dried fruits such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts to bring a little joy to the homes”.

The Amazigh New Year celebrations, which also celebrate the new agricultural year, take place in Oujda like in other cities. “There are Amazigh inhabitants from Nador and Figuig who have been living here for decades,” explains Jamal Heddadi, a specialist in Ujdi cultural heritage.

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

Casablanca: Civil society plan to help homeless migrants

Following the destruction of migrant camps in Casablanca last week, the Casablanca Protection Working Group (CWG) will meet on Tuesday 12 January to launch emergency actions. A platform made up of associations and human rights organisations active in the protection of refugees, asylum seekers, migrants in vulnerable situations and stateless people in the Casablanca-Settat region, the GTP will have to mobilise a maximum of NGOs “to launch an operation to collect and distribute donations (sleeping bags, clothes, shoes, hot meals, hygiene kit…)”.

This meeting was decided after an emergency meeting initiated on Friday 8 January by the association Bank de Solidarité and the Fondation Solidarité accompagnement initiative développement (SAID). It also focused on “examining the impact of the severe weather conditions experienced by the city of Casablanca on homeless migrants”. For its organisers, the priority is to “question the public authorities concerned about the difficult humanitarian situation of the homeless, including migrants”. The idea will therefore be to “formulate concrete proposals to the authorities to provide emergency accommodation for the homeless during the winter season”, indicated a press release that reached Yabiladi.

In addition, the aim will be to “raise awareness among the Casablanca community about the situation of the homeless in the current context to encourage them to contribute to the donation operation”, so as to carry out actions during the winter season, which this year in Casablanca was marked by bad weather, while strengthening solidarity actions in the medium term. “The migrants were left to their own devices in the middle of the cold and rainy season, after the authorities razed their shelters in several districts of Casablanca without any consideration of the difficult weather conditions”, deplored the initiating associations.

This first meeting was attended by the Regional Human Rights Commission (CRDH) of Casablanca-Settat, the Legal Clinic, Law and Justice, the International Mutual Aid Committee (CEI), the Moroccan Network of Migration Journalists (RMJM), the association Rim espoir and the Guinean Organisation for the Fight against Irregular Migration.

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

January 10, 2020

Agadir/COVID-19: One week extension of preventive measures

The prefectural committee of epidemiological watch and monitoring in the prefecture of Agadir Ida-Outanane announced Saturday the extension by one week of the implementation of measures decided to fight against the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

This decision, which will come into force on Sunday, January 10 at 21:00, comes following the conclusions of daily and weekly monitoring operations of the evolution of the epidemiological situation and after observation of an increase in the number of cases of contamination, says a press release from the prefectural watch committee. The committee had noticed the persistent increase in the number of infected cases, having exceeded the national threshold (more than 50 cases for every 100,000 inhabitants), the communiqué continues.

The local authorities are therefore calling on the population to support these preventive measures.

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

The Tijanes of Dakar are organising their 40th Islamic Cultural Days, under the High Patronage of the King, Amir Al Mouminine

The Tijane Coordination of Dakar organised, on Saturday, the 40th edition of the “Islamic Cultural Days”, an annual event placed under the High Patronage of King Mohammed VI, Amir Al Mouminine, and the honorary presidency of the Senegalese Head of State, Macky Sall.

Due to the epidemiological situation caused by COVID-19, the 2021 edition of this important religious event also held under the aegis of the Khalife-General of Tijanes, Serigne Babacar (Mbaye) Mansour Sy, took place in a webinar, through a televised “Great Conference”.

The launching ceremony of this event was marked by the participation of a Moroccan delegation including the Moroccan ambassador in Dakar, Taleb Barrada, the Secretary General of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Ulemas, Mohamed Rifki, as well as Abdellatif Beghdouri Achkari, senior official of the Mohammed VI Foundation of African Ulemas.

As usual, the members of the Moroccan delegation received a warm welcome from the Tijanese dignitaries and representatives of the different families of the Tariqa.

At the beginning of this ceremony, the President of the Coordination of the Tijanes of Dakar, Hadj Tidiane Gaye asked the members of the Moroccan delegation to convey the warm thanks and gratitude of the members of the coordination to HM King Mohammed VI, Amir Al Mouminine, for the high level of care and special interest that the Sovereign has always shown in the Tijanes of Dakar and all the religious families of Senegal.

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

January 09, 2021

New strains of Coronavirus: National genomic surveillance plan strengthened

During a webinar organised on Thursday 7 January by the Moroccan Society of Medical Sciences (SMSM), Abderrahman Maâroufi, director of the Pasteur Institute, unveiled the national genomic surveillance plan.

Five main objectives

This monitoring, which is also carried out by other laboratories at the national level, aims to:

  • Detect the appearance or introduction of new genetic variants of COVID-19 on the national territory;
  • Evaluate the impact of mutations on the transmissibility and severity of the virus;
  • Evaluate the impact of mutations on the performance of molecular, serological and antigenic diagnostic methods;
  • Evaluate the impact of mutations on vaccine efficacy;
  • Evaluate and confirm cases of reinfection with the same viral strain”.

According to M. Mâaroufi, “the protocol of this national plan is simple. It is based on three approaches:

  • The first is related to the detection and monitoring of priority mutations. To do this, a list of the most important mutations that need to be monitored has been drawn up, because it is useless to monitor the whole genome and possible mutations”;
  • Once one of these priority mutations is detected, a viral cell culture is carried out so that the various impact studies can be carried out, including virulence and infectivity tests, to see whether the infectivity potential has increased, decreased or remained unchanged, and the serum neutralisation study, to assess the impact of this mutation on the structure of the virus, as well as the effectiveness of antibodies produced or induced by the viruses;
  • Then, the whole genome is sequenced to obtain data on the complete signature of the mutation and its general profile”.

International travellers under particular scrutiny

Mr. Mâaroufi continues: “The sequencing carried out by the Pasteur Institute and by the other laboratories is done on a representative sample of different strains, which come from different geographical areas, at different periods and with a different spectrum of disease severity (mild forms, severe forms…). »

In addition, “we are informed of any suspicion of reinfection, the aim being to systematically carry out sequencing”. As part of this monitoring plan to detect the English variant or other mutant strains, “we have set up a screening system at Casablanca airport, for all international travellers, using rapid antigenic tests. Positive cases are sent for confirmation by PCR and genome sequencing.

“We have also asked the epidemic managers in the different regions of the country to be alerted whenever an unusual epidemic cluster is observed, in terms of its size or severity, so that sequencing can be carried out on the strains isolated there”.

No mutations detected in Morocco at the end of December

During this webinar, the director of the Institut Pasteur also presented the first results of the previous day’s work up to the end of December. According to him, this monitoring plan has been activated since April. “The initial analyses have not revealed any significant changes since the appearance of the change in the United Kingdom”. The work intensified during the month of December when “we proceeded with the genomic sequencing of around fifty genomes. So far, this mutation has not been detected on Moroccan soil”.

“It is important to continue this work, since these are only interim results. It is therefore necessary to monitor the evolution of the genome and the variants circulating in Morocco, particularly among international travellers, in order to study the impact of the mutations detected on the behaviour of viruses, through experimental studies”.

The new variant 1.5 times more contagious

At the same meeting, Dr. Robert Cohen, President of Infovac France, returned to the priorities of the British and South African variants. He pointed out that “the G614 (the new British mutation, editor’s note) is 1.5 times more contagious than the D614, the original strain”. The British have also shown that this new strain “multiplies faster”.

“This strain is not more pathogenic,” he added, “but because of its high transmission rate, it involves more patients and more severe cases.

This increase in transmissibility is explained by Dr. Cohen “by the higher viral load of the virus. There are more viruses to be transmitted from one individual to another. And the longer this pandemic lasts, the more sick people it will affect, the more replication will take place, which could lead to the appearance of new mutations”, which are much more serious.

As for the South African strain, detected in October, it worries scientists more, “since it occurs during the summer period (in South Africa), the time when the seasonality of the virus means that normally there are fewer cases, while the curve of infected people is increasing” in this African country. These details have already been revealed to us in a previous article by Prof. Tayeb Hamdi.

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

January 07, 2020

COVID-19: extension of the state of health emergency in Morocco until 10 February 2021

The Governing Council, meeting Thursday in Rabat, decided to extend the state of health emergency throughout the country until 10 February 2021, as part of efforts to combat the spread of the pandemic of the new Coronavirus.

The Council of Government has examined and adopted the draft decree N°2.20.960, presented by the Minister of the Interior, extending the period of validity of the state of health emergency throughout the national territory to cope with the spread of COVID-19, said the Minister of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research, Government Spokesman, Saaid Amzazi, in a statement read at a press briefing at the end of the Council.

In order to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of measures taken in the fight against the spread of the pandemic linked to COVID-19, this draft decree extends the state of health emergency throughout the national territory from Sunday, January 10, 2021 at 18H00 to Wednesday, February 10, 2021 at 18H00, Amzazi said.

He noted that, given the need to ensure that the provisions and measures taken are adequate with the evolution of the epidemiological situation in the different regions and provinces of the Kingdom, the draft decree provides for provisions enabling the government authority in charge of the Interior to take, in the light of the epidemiological situation, all appropriate measures at the national level. It also allows the walis of the regions and the governors of the prefectures and provinces to take all executive measures to maintain public health order at the level of a prefecture, a province, a commune or more.

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

January 06, 2021

COVID-19: Morocco authorises AstraZeneca vaccine

The Ministry of Health today announced the approval for “emergency use for 12 months” of the COVID-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca.

As previously announced, the national consultative commission for the authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine met, Thursday in Rabat, to discuss the issue of the authorization of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Morocco.

During this meeting, the national commission considered all international information and data relating to the AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, the director of medicines and pharmacy at the Ministry of Health, Bouchra Meddah told the press at the end of the meeting.

As a reminder, the commission also studied the good compliance with the manufacturing, safety, quality and efficacy standards of the vaccine, the results of pre-clinical and clinical trials and the international recognition of this vaccine.

Unlike the vaccines of the German-American alliance Pfizer/BioNTech or the American group Moderna, which require low storage temperatures (-20°C for the former, -70°C for the latter), the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine is simpler to store and transport, under normal refrigeration conditions of between 2°C and 8°C, making it easier to store and less expensive.

According to AstraZeneca group CEO Pascal Soriot, the vaccine is capable of combating the new variant of the coronavirus, responsible for an outbreak of contamination in the UK. “For the time being, we believe that the vaccine should remain effective” against this new strain, Soriot said, assuring that new versions would be prepared if necessary.

The Swedish-British pharmaceutical group has also confirmed its capacity to manufacture some three billion doses of the vaccine worldwide in 2021. This is the first vaccine whose efficacy results have been validated by the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet. The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has also been authorised by Argentina and, on Sunday, by India.

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

January 05, 2021

Here’s why Morocco has not yet vaccinated

Although Morocco was one of the first countries to announce the launch of preparations for the vaccination campaign against COVID19, it has not, to date, effectively launched this operation, which has got off to a good start elsewhere. It’s only a matter of days,” reassures Professor Abdelfettah Chakib, who is even predicting January 10 as the effective date for the start of the vaccination campaign in Morocco.

Morocco strictly complies with World Health Organization (WHO) standards for the validation and authorization of vaccines. This is explained by Abdelfettah chakib, professor of medicine at the Ibn Rochd University Hospital & specialist in infectious and tropical diseases. Invited by L’Info en Face, for its first large-format programme of the year, the expert believes that the authorities in charge of validating vaccine authorisations in Morocco require a very high level of control in the study of the documents and results relating to each vaccine, in strict compliance with the standards required by the WHO. “Morocco is among the most demanding countries in terms of vaccine authorisation. Within the framework of the activities of the WMA committee (drug marketing authorisation), we work according to international standards, particularly American and European. We don’t play with the health of citizens”, the professor warns.

As for the countries that have already launched the vaccination, Dr Chakib explains that they have decided to introduce the vaccine before the final results of the phase 3 tests are available. “Our legislation does not allow us to do the same. The technical vaccination committee, which has existed since the 1960s, or the one created by the ministry as part of the fight against COVID-19, must comply with clear texts: no authorisation without having the final results of phase 3 and official documentation on the vaccine,” insists the expert.

But faced with an emergency situation and the concerns of citizens, wouldn’t it be wise to speed up the process?

No, answers the guest of L’Info en Face. “I remind you that China has just granted authorisation for the vaccine produced by Sinopharm. It is very important to comply with the regulations in force and to study as many results as possible, which represent a larger, and therefore more reassuring, sample,” says Prof. Chakib, who adds that this delay makes it possible to further verify the vaccine’s efficacy.

“Thanks to this delay, we also know better the level of immediate and more frequent side effects, those in the medium term and rare effects. The rarer ones require even more time and an even wider range of people to be vaccinated,” explains the specialist in infectious and tropical diseases. This rigour, notes the expert, is applied by the Kingdom for other drugs, including bio-similars that have been authorised for use in other countries, but whose marketing is still refused in Morocco for lack of data or studies concerning them.
Furthermore, Prof. Chakib questions Morocco’s dependence on foreign countries for the production of vaccines. “If we manufactured the vaccines at home, we wouldn’t have this problem! So it’s time to learn the lessons from this epidemic and to react in relation to the whole Moroccan health system. It’s time, and those in charge are indeed in the process of doing so, to think about becoming self-sufficient in vaccine production. We have the necessary human skills, but we need technology transfer to get started,” explains Rachid Hallaouy’s guest.
This transfer of technology has moreover been approved as part of the agreement concluded by Morocco and the Sinopharm laboratory.

So when will the vaccination campaign start?

While saying that he cannot say exactly when vaccination will start in Morocco, the guest of L’Info en Face says that it should not be long. “I think we will start from 10 January,” he says. Will this mean that we will have received all the doses requested, i.e. the 65 million doses of vaccine announced by the Health Minister? Not necessarily,” replies the guest. “Experience has shown that it is not necessary, nor useful, to have millions of doses to start vaccination. The essential thing is to start, to be regular and to widen the range little by little to better control the campaign. This will also allow us to test the system we have put in place and adjust it if necessary. For the symbolic, Pr Chakib believes that to make the launch of the vaccination campaign coincide with January 11th would mean that we will start the independence of this virus!

Maintaining restaurant closures, a scientific answer

Asked about the decision to close restaurants on New Year’s Eve, which has impacted many restaurateurs and caused many jobs to be suspended, the expert said that it has been scientifically proven that the areas with the highest risk of spreading the virus are restaurants, gyms and cafés. In other words, all places where there are population groups, which will certainly remove their masks in a closed space. “The decision to close the restaurants is linked to two important points: not to repeat the nightmare we experienced during Eid Al Adha and the authorities’ desire to control the movement of populations and therefore the effects that may follow,” explains the professor. And he adds that there is also the appearance of the new strain of COVID-19, “all these elements have prompted the Scientific Committee, to warn of the scientifically proven risks to the population. In addition to this scientific opinion, the officials will consult other parties concerned to take this or that decision,” he says.

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