January 12 – 18, 2021 | Press Review Morocco

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

January 18, 2021

Morocco announces a first case of a new strain of COVID-19

The Ministry of Health, as part of the implementation of the monitoring programme for the fight against COVID-19, announces the detection of the first case of the new strain of the virus in Tangier-Med in a Moroccan citizen coming from Ireland on board a boat from the port of Marseille.
The Ministry indicates in a press release that the person in question is symptom-free and is currently in isolation in Casablanca. He has been taken care of according to the protocol in force, as well as all contacts.
The ministry also indicates that, as part of the regular updating of the protocol for the management of COVID-19, numerous measures have been put in place to enable the detection of possible new strains of the virus. These measures are also in line with a protocol that is constantly being updated in line with the epidemiological situation in Morocco and around the world.
“The ministry will continue, as usual, to communicate the latest information about the pandemic,” says a statement from the ministry, which calls on citizens to strengthen prevention measures and to commit themselves responsibly in the fight against the spread of the virus.

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

Variant of COVID-19 in the UK: first case detected in Morocco, aircraft and passengers from four other countries banned

The competent authorities have taken the decision to prohibit, as a precautionary measure, the entry into the national territory, as from 19 January and until further notice, of aircraft and passengers from Australia, Brazil, Ireland and New Zealand.
A press release from the Ministry of Health released on the evening of 18 January states that the first case of contamination by the variant of the COVID-19 virus that appeared in the United Kingdom has been detected in Morocco. According to the same source, the infected person is a Moroccan from Ireland who arrived at the port of Tangier Med via Marseille.
The case proved to be asymptomatic, it is said, adding that the person in question was quickly placed in isolation in Casablanca. The people in contact with the case were taken care of in accordance with the health protocol.
The competent authorities have taken the decision to prohibit, as a preventive measure, the access to the national territory, from January 19, 2021 and until further notice, of planes and passengers from Australia, Brazil, Ireland and New Zealand, following the discovery of a suspect case affected by the mutant Coronavirus, said Monday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans residing abroad.
These countries come in addition to South Africa, Denmark and the United Kingdom, already concerned by this same measure, the ministry said in a statement.

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

Calls are growing for universal access to vaccines

As the pandemic of the new coronavirus continues to advance, causing more than two million deaths worldwide, several international organisations and experts are mobilising for international cooperation and solidarity in the face of COVID-19, with increasing calls for equitable access to vaccines against the virus.

On Monday, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, called for increased support to developing countries in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that “immunity is not the privilege of the few but a right for all”.
“The loss of life due to this pandemic is equivalent to eight tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, but support to the most exposed countries is unfortunately not as quick as the generous way we saw after the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed some 228,000 people of many different nationalities,” she stressed.
“The money raised in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami amounted to US$6.25 billion to help 14 affected countries. Today, we are challenged to raise the $4 billion that the WHO is asking for for the COVAX initiative to secure vaccines for low- and middle-income countries,” Ms Mizutori continued.
It is a disturbing situation that 95% of the vaccines that have been administered so far have been injected in only 10 countries (…) Low- and middle-income countries with large exposed populations are neglected.

She urged the international community to fund the COVAX initiative without delay so that “immunity is not the privilege of a few but the right of all”.
For his part, the head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that the world would face a “catastrophic moral failure” if rich countries monopolised COVID-19 vaccines at the expense of poor countries.
“I have to be frank. The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure, and the price of that failure will be paid in lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” said the director-general of the World Health Organization.
In a speech at the opening of a UN executive board meeting in Geneva, he castigated the “selfish” attitude of rich countries and strongly criticised vaccine manufacturers for seeking regulatory approval in rich states rather than submitting their data to WHO to get a global green light for the vaccine’s use.

Believing that the promise of equitable global access to coronavirus vaccines was now in jeopardy, the WHO chief pointed out that 39 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine had already been administered in at least 49 rich countries.
At the same time, “only 25 doses have been administered in one of the lowest income countries. Not 25 million, not 25,000, just 25,” he lamented.
Tedros said that while some countries wanted to reassure people about equitable access to vaccines, they were prioritising their own agreements with manufacturers, driving up prices and trying to bypass queues.

He said that 44 agreements had been reached by 2020 between these countries and manufacturers, and at least 12 had been signed since the beginning of the year.
“The situation is aggravated by the fact that most manufacturers have given priority to regulatory approval in rich countries where profits are highest, rather than submitting complete dossiers to the WHO,” he lamented.
“Not only does this selfish approach endanger the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, it is also doomed to failure,” he warned.
“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic and our suffering, and the restrictions needed to contain it, and the human and economic suffering,” Tedros said.

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

January 17, 2021

Why did Morocco not receive the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine as planned?

The plane that was supposed to bring back the first delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine to Morocco on Saturday 16 January did not finally leave India, resulting in yet another delay in the start of the national vaccination campaign.

These repeated postponements are beginning to weigh heavily, and the questions are becoming more and more numerous and the criticisms more acerbic.

Moroccans do not understand how countries that had been far behind the Kingdom in announcing both the acquisition of vaccines and the launch of vaccination have already received their batches and launched their operations.

All this in the absence of official information that explains the whys and wherefores of this story, which has been extended and cuts off the road in the face of the tons of information and speculation that are flooding social networks and shaking the most solid and logical minds.

In the absence of official information, as it should have come from the ministry in charge, Khalid Ait Taleb’s department, Hespress has obtained information that sheds some light on all these developments that are, all in all, tiresome.

Thus, according to our sources, under the terms of an agreement between the Kingdom and the British AstraZeneca, a plane carrying the first delivery of the vaccine finally did not take off this Saturday, the supplier having postponed at the last minute, the said delivery, as the Chinese Sinopharm had done before him.

These postponements, or even cancellations sometimes at the last minute, have become commonplace with regard to any drug, vaccine or even medical equipment related to COVID-19, assures our source, who emphasizes that “these operations are precisely no longer subject to the same parameters that framed and governed the trade before the pandemic”.

The reason, again according to the Hespress source, is that India is launching a large-scale vaccination operation, which should concern 300 million people to be vaccinated before the end of July, and therefore needs millions of doses to ensure its campaign.

The operation launched in India is also expected to delay deliveries to Europe, one of the areas most affected by the virus worldwide.

These delays come at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for “vaccination campaigns to begin as soon as possible, within the next 100 days, to stop the spread of the pandemic, which has already claimed some 2 million lives”.

“I want to see vaccination starting in all countries within the next 100 days so that health workers and those at high risk are protected first,” WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva, while the campaigns have so far started almost exclusively in rich countries.

In this context, Hespress sources predict the arrival of the first batch of 1 million doses “in the coming days”, so that the vaccination operation can finally be launched, for which Khalid Ait Taleb assures that his services are ready. Fingers crossed!

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

January 15, 2021

Herd immunity against COVID-19 could be reached in early May

Collective immunity against COVID-19 could be achieved in early May, based on a 12-week vaccination schedule, said Health Minister Khalid Aït Taleb. In an interview with BAB, the monthly magazine of MAP, the health minister said that based on a 12-week vaccination schedule, “we could possibly be in herd immunity in early May,” explaining that in view of scientific and epidemiological indicators recognized by the WHO, it would be necessary to reach more than 60% of the population to achieve herd immunity. The Kingdom has chosen to target 80% of the population in order to quickly emerge from this pandemic that has impacted it socially and economically, the minister stressed, adding, however, that achieving herd immunity will take time.

In this regard, he explained that the campaign will take place during the pandemic period and therefore in strict compliance with the barrier measures, adding that it will take more than 14 days after receiving the second dose for each individual to reach a certain level of immunity. Only time will tell how long the vaccine will remain effective against COVID-19 or whether in the future the virus will become seasonal like H1N1, which has been included in the flu vaccination programme, the government official said. Regarding the launch date of the vaccination campaign, Mr. Aït Taleb said it will be officially announced after the vaccine is received.

To date, there is no precise date, but the preparations are there and the mechanism is in place, he said, noting that Morocco is ready to start this vaccination campaign. This is a large-scale operation that will affect the entire national territory and will require very significant logistical and human resources and a flawless organization, he noted. On another front, Mr. Aït Taleb acknowledges “a small suffering” in the management of non-COVID-19 diseases in general, explaining “that there was a global health emergency and that its management was a priority. However, the health system was able to identify and identify COVID-19 structures that operated independently of non-Covid structures, so that patients could continue to have access to care.

Turning to the generalisation of the AMO, the Minister stressed that medical coverage must today be part of an approach based on solidarity between the different categories of the population, continuing that the process of generalisation must begin to be rolled out from the year 2021. The government official did not fail to highlight the need to ensure the sustainability of this system of generalisation, noting that to achieve this, it is necessary “to put an end to corporatism and ensure management in a transversal and vertical manner to guarantee the viability of the system”.

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

COVID-19: Morocco did order the AstraZeneca vaccine from India but the delivery date remains unclear

The Indian laboratory Serum Institute of India, based in Pune and working under licence from the British company AstraZeneca, has been approached by several countries that are still looking to obtain supplies of vaccines against the new coronavirus. Morocco is among its potential customers, as are South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh and Brazil. However, no date has been set for this, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not yet confirmed the classification of the vaccine.

It is expected to take effect “within the next week or two” under the WHO’s COVAX programme, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, told Reuters. According to him, the institute will sell each dose at $3 for low-income countries and at a “slightly higher” price for others.

On 31 December 2020, the UN agency listed the covid vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as safe for urgent use. The aim was mainly to speed up vaccination in developing countries, which launched their campaigns a few days earlier but are lagging far behind.

A total of 189 countries have joined the UN’s COVAX programme, which aims to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout the world.

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

Screening tests in Morocco: why the number of tests has decreased

The Ministry of Health has revealed the number of COVID-19 tests carried out on a daily basis on people likely to have contracted the virus.
According to the electronic portal of the Department of Khalid Ait Taleb, responsible for the detection and notification of infected cases, the number of tests carried out last Wednesday is 18017, while the Ministry of Health carried out 10354 last Tuesday.

From these figures, it can be deduced that the number of tests carried out daily has decreased from 25,000 per day to only 18,000. As a reminder, an official of the ministry previously told Le Site info that the decrease in the number of screening tests is inherent to the decrease in the number of confirmed cases and their relatives.
The same source stated that the number of screening tests will be increased, thanks to the technique of rapid serological tests that Morocco has recently introduced.

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

COVID-19: Morocco wants to generalise rapid tests

Pending the launch of the vaccination campaign, Morocco has decided to move up a gear by generalising rapid screening tests in hospitals.

This government measure is less costly and saves time, reports Al Ahdath Al Maghribia. Because it makes it possible to find out the patient’s serological status in about ten minutes. The other advantage of this decision is that it relieves congestion in the analysis laboratories that used to carry out PCR tests.
Specialists point out that this screening test, based on the detection of the antigen, will make it possible to go faster and save time in order to better care for those who are contaminated. A total of 49 centres in 75 provinces in the 12 regions of the country have been equipped with these rapid screening test devices. The aim is to counter the spread of the virus among contact persons. In doing so, these patients will no longer be able to wait 48 hours for the results of their tests.
These antigenic tests make it easier to refer and manage patients who test positive to COVID-19. They could also have an impact on the decline in the number of infections in the country. They are available free of charge in public hospitals, university hospital centres (CHU) and local health centres in all regions of the country.

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

January 14, 2021

Absence of students from different sub-Saharan countries due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the enrolment of sub-Saharan students in Morocco’s higher education institutions. There is a significant shortfall for public schools and universities, where one-third of enrolments come from these countries.

Bad times for Morocco’s public schools and universities. At this time last year, many of them were busy preparing for the new academic year and bailing out their cash flow. In 2021, everything seems to be almost nil. The health crisis has passed through here. The wave of students from sub-Saharan Africa, who were a major earner of foreign exchange, suspended their enrolment because of restrictive measures imposed by the Moroccan government.
Respite for student mobility: A glance at the statistics gives visibility on the impact of the absence of these learners on campus. Their number has more than doubled from 3,289 in 2010 to 7,941 in 2019, or 40% of the total number of foreign students in Morocco. Some institutions had recruitment centres, particularly in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to attract their future boarders, and the tuition fees in these institutions vary between 1,000 and 5,000 dirhams depending on the reputation and those related to schooling can vary between 30,000 and 70,000 dirhams per year, the calculation is quickly made.
To limit losses, several institutes have launched distance learning programmes dedicated to this category. “Beyond the findings, this crisis is a real opportunity to rethink pedagogical models in higher education, and to imagine the models of tomorrow,” says Mourad el Mahjoubi, CEO of Emlyon Business School Africa.
Outside these private spheres, the overwhelming majority of sub-Saharan students go to public institutions, thanks to the hundreds of scholarships offered each year by the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation (AMCI) under the bilateral agreements signed with their respective countries. The AMCI had announced in July 2017 an increase in the number of scholarship holders in order to “accompany the dynamics launched by King Mohammed VI in Africa”.

More than 16,000, or more than 85% of foreign students, were enrolled in Moroccan universities and public schools in 2020, against 4,477 in 2004, according to the AMCI. This exponential increase has made Morocco the second largest destination for foreign students on the continent after South Africa.
As with their private counterparts, these institutions will be weaned off of students. “This year, only a few scholarships have been granted to sub-Saharan students to follow distance learning courses in some public institutions,” says Lamine Ndiaye, former national executive secretary of the Confederation of Foreign African Students and Trainees in Morocco (CESAM).

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

January 13, 2021

Reopening of restaurants in Casablanca this Wednesday, January 13 and in Agadir from Thursday, January 14

In Casablanca, restaurants will be able to open their doors this Wednesday, January 13, 2M.ma learned from an authorized source.

Closed for three weeks following the precautionary measures dictated by the government on December 21 last, and which took effect on 23rd of the same month, restaurants in the economic capital will be able to resume serving customers on site, adds the same source. However, they will have to respect the closing time set at 8 p.m.

This resumption of activity is also planned in Agadir from Thursday, January 14, according to the same source.

As a reminder, the government statement dated Tuesday, January 12, extending these precautionary measures, does not mention the total closure of restaurants in its reminder of these measures, but only the closure of restaurants, cafes, shops and supermarkets at 20:00, alongside the maintenance of the night curfew from 21:00 to 6:00 nationally, except in exceptional cases, and the ban on parties and public or private gatherings.

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

January 12, 2021

The government has decided to extend by one week, starting on 13 January at 21:00, the precautionary measures adopted on 23 December last.

The government has decided to extend the precautionary measures adopted on 23 December last year to combat the coronavirus by one week, starting at 9 pm on 13 January.

In a press release, the government states that this decision comes in the wake of the evolution of the epidemiological situation worldwide and the appearance of new variants of the virus in neighbouring countries, and on the basis of the recommendations of the scientific and technical commission on the need to reinforce the procedures of the state of public health emergency and to maintain the measures and procedures necessary to fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Government recalls that these precautionary measures concern:

1- The closure of restaurants, cafés, shops and supermarkets at 8:00 pm;

2- Night-time curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. nationwide, except in exceptional cases;

3- The prohibition of public or private parties and gatherings.

All the precautionary measures previously announced will be maintained, concludes the press release.

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