February 03 – 08, 2021 | Press Review Morocco

| ,

Photo: John S. on Flickr

February 08, 2021

The Ministry of Health for the maintenance of the Sinopharm vaccine in people aged 60 and over

The available data make it possible to maintain the use of the Sinopharm vaccine for the age group of 60 years and over, as recommended in the national strategy of vaccination against COVID-19, said Monday, February 8, the Moroccan Ministry of Health.

The anti-COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm has obtained the authorisation of use, without age limitation at 60 years by several countries, including Morocco, the department said in a statement relating the opinion of the National Scientific Committee ad-hoc for the development of the vaccination strategy against Sars-Cov-2.

The overall immunogenicity of the Sinopharm vaccine during phase I and II clinical trials, he said, “is excellent for both the Sinopharm Beijing vaccine, which includes people over 60 years of age, and the Sinopharm Wuhan vaccine, with a seroconversion rate of between 97% and 100% after two injections”.

According to the Ministry, the Phase III clinical trial of Sinopharm vaccine showed an overall efficacy of 86% and good safety.

In addition, the phase III clinical trial of the Sinopharm Wuhan vaccine, part of which took place in Morocco, included people aged 60 and over. “Preliminary results have shown good tolerance in this population,” he said.

The pharmacovigilance data from the national vaccination campaign, concerning people aged 60 and over, do not show an increase in adverse events compared to the rest of the vaccinated population.

Indeed, to date, out of 36,009 doses of Sinopharm vaccine administered in this age group, 8 cases of minor adverse reactions have been reported, which corresponds to a reporting rate of 2.2 cases per 10,000, the statement continued, noting that this reporting rate is considered rare.

In Morocco, people aged 60 and over represent 20% of the general population. This age group accounts for 16.7% of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 75% of deaths due to this disease. The case-fatality rate among people aged 60 years and over is 7.9%, 15.8 times that observed among those under 60 years of age.

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

PJD elected officials in solidarity with Azzouha El Arrak, victim of racial insults

Elected members of the Justice and Development Party (PJD) expressed, on Sunday, their solidarity with Azzouha El Arrak, parliamentary deputy and councillor in the municipality of Dakhla for racial insults she suffered during a session of the municipal office of the city. In a statement relayed on the official website of the PJD, the elected representatives of the Lamp denounced the insults “disregarding the principles and rules of respect and honour imposed in relations with women”.

The communiqué castigated shameful and degrading remarks and expressions made by a councillor of the current majority and “strongly condemned this unacceptable aggressive behaviour which contradicts all the original moral values of Saharawi Moroccan society in its relations with women and which strikes a blow at the values of dialogue and institutional work in the elected community”. The elected members of the PJD also denounce “behaviour that offends the country and political work in general”.

During the February session of the Dakhla communal council, a member of the majority described the PJD MP as “hartania” and a slave, alluding to her racial character and skin colour. These comments were supported by other elected members of the council.

Azzouha El Arrak denounced, during last week’s meeting, the exploitation by a local councillor of a plot of land in the name of another person, arguing that this person “belongs to his family” and would be “his servant”. The councillor demanded that the plot be returned to its owner because “he is nobody’s slave or Haratani”.

Described in return as “Hartania”, she then expressed her astonishment at the “words of the ante-Islamic period” with the blessing of the council’s presidency.

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

February 07, 2021

Moussa Ndao victim of racial insults in the middle of a match against Racing de Casablanca

Moroccan football thought it was relatively untouched by racist behaviours. However, Even when played behind closed doors, the AS Salé coach was subjected to racist insults during the match against Racing de Casablanca.

The Senegalese international footballer Moussa Ndao, coach of the Sports Association (AS) of Salé was, Saturday, a victim of racist remarks during the match between his club and Racing Casablanca, as part of the 9th day of the second division of Botola. It was around the 20th minute of the match held at the Père Jego Stadium that the incident took place, which prompted the coach of the Slaoui club to protest against racial insults made by one of the people present in the tribune of honour.
At the microphone of El Botola, the Senegalese international did not hide his “disgust”. “Everyone heard the racist remarks he made about me. It’s inadmissible on a football pitch, at any rate, from the leaders of the opposing team,” he reacted, visibly upset.
“I protested strongly. My players came and told me they wanted to get off the field. I held them back. These kind of behaviours shouldn’t even be allowed in a stadium, especially since the match took place behind closed doors”.

For the AS Salé coach, “it’s a real shame to make racist remarks when you Morocco has taken many initiates to foster integration. “Tonight, I have only one desire: to leave. I have a feeling of disgust, I want to take my luggage and leave”, he says with regret.
The host club reacted to this deplorable incident and apologised to the AS Salé coach. A statement from Racing de Casablanca explains that an “urgent meeting by videoconference” was held by the management of the team. After hearing the members who followed the meeting, the club said that the remarks made by one of its former players and current employee of the Père Jego Stadium, “are not worthy of Moroccan society” which advocates tolerance, coexistence and solidarity.

Casablanca Racing and Football League quick to react

While condemning the racist remarks, the club apologised to Moussa Ndao and the sports and media family, recalling that this incident “is foreign, has never been experienced by the club and is not in line with the values” of Racing de Casablanca.

For its part, the National League of Professional Football considered, in a statement issued on Sunday, that Moussa Ndao was “victim of insults that are unrelated to the principles of sportsmanship that should prevail in football matches. It announced that it intends to “submit the reports of the delegate and the match referee to the ethics commission” of the FRMF, in order to “take appropriate measures against the person responsible for this immoral act”.
The racist insult against Moussa Dao also shocked many internet users, particularly football fans. Many messages of support were shared with the AS Salé coach.

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

AstraZeneca vaccine: what the Oxford University study says

A preliminary study from Oxford University is providing encouraging results for the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine reduces the transmissibility of the COVID-19 virus by 67% from the first dose.

The good news is that the AstraZeneca vaccine reduces the transmissibility of the coronavirus to 67% from the first dose. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by the University of Oxford. The clinical trials that led to this result were carried out on 17,177 participants in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. “The primary analysis of the overall efficacy of the vaccine, 14 days after the second dose, was 66.7%. There was no hospitalisation after the initial deferral period. The vaccine efficacy after a single standard dose of vaccine after vaccination was 76% and a modelled analysis indicated that protection did not decrease during this initial three-month period,” the document reveals.

The same source points out that antibody levels were maintained during this period with a minimal decrease at day 90. These observations, the study notes, are supported by immunogenicity data that showed more than twice as many binding antibody responses after an interval of 12 weeks or more, compared to an interval of less than six weeks in people aged 18-55 years. The interpretation of these data, again according to Oxford University, is as follows: “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccination programmes that aim to vaccinate a large proportion of the population with a single dose, with a second dose administered after a period of 3 months is an effective strategy for reducing disease, and may be the best strategy for the deployment of a vaccination campaign when stocks are limited in the short term”. The study, which is to be peer-reviewed prior to publication, states that vaccinated people are not only protected from the disease but are also less likely to transmit it. Andrew Pollard, the project leader of the study, said the vaccine could have a huge impact on transmission, adding that the tests were carried out before the variants appeared.

However, the Oxford professor suggested that the time has not yet come to stop precautionary measures, including physical distancing. The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is still controversial, was validated by the European Commission on 29 January last following the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). According to the European Commission, this authorisation followed a positive scientific recommendation based on an in-depth evaluation of the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine by the EMA and approved by the Member States. However, and this is where the problem lies, the effectiveness of the vaccine for people over 65 years of age is called into question, even though the British laboratory has already issued denials on this point.

Effective or not, it’s too early to tell.

Concerning this Oxford study according to which the first dose of AstraZeneca would reduce the transmissibility of the virus by 67%, the virologist, Mustapha Ennaji, director of the virology laboratory of the Hassan II University of Casablanca explains that “these are results based on clinical studies and in any case in the vaccination strategy, the first dose of a vaccine induces the synthesis of antibodies and the second dose is only a boost”. In other words, the first dose induces some immunity and it is the second dose that gives the real boost. And as mentioned above regarding the fact that this study is “preliminary” and that it must be peer-reviewed before publication, Mustapha Ennaji indicated that it is not excluded that a similar study could contradict these results.

Diversified strategies

As regards the efficacy or otherwise of the vaccine, particularly for people over 65 years of age, Mustapha Ennaji states that “there are several vaccines on the market and all of them have followed the same regulations, whether at the level of their countries or the WHO”. He points out that all these vaccines have followed different strategies, so it is “too early to say”. In his view, it will be at least a year before we can determine whether or not the vaccines have been effective, not without recalling that many countries have chosen the AstraZeneca vaccine. It should also be remembered that Morocco, which ordered 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, has so far only received two million doses. In this respect, the director of the virology laboratory of the Hassan II University in Casablanca believes that it is not out of the question that the kingdom may order elsewhere since it is not at all clear that AstraZeneca is in a position to supply all the doses needed in Morocco. Morocco also recently received 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine.

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

February 06, 2021

Fnideq: Confrontations and arrests after the sit-in against deteriorating living conditions

After long months of waiting for a response from the government to the calls for help from the population of Fnideq, victims of the closure of the borders with Ceuta, the situation degenerated last night into clashes between demonstrators and the police during a sit-in.

Fnideq is in turmoil. Yesterday evening, the anger of a majority of the inhabitants who live mainly from informal trade with Ceuta was expressed by the holding of an “unauthorised” sit-in, according to the official version, at the Mohammed V boulevard. Participation was high, since the closure of the borders with Ceuta has deprived hundreds of families of their main source of income.

Faced with this protest movement, which had been simmering for several months, the security forces tried to disperse the sit-in. Clashes ensued between demonstrators and police officers. “During this intervention, some demonstrators threw stones at some members of police forces, injuring six of them, who had to be evacuated to hospital to receive the necessary treatment”, according to a communiqué from the M’diq-Fnideq prefecture, “Ten people were also transferred to hospital following cases of fainting as a result of jostling among the demonstrators”, the same source added.

For its part, Al Adl wal Ihsane claims the arrest of one of its disciples, Yassine Razine. The USFP also reports the arrest of Khalil Jebari, a member of its provincial secretariat. Both organisations demand the immediate release of the two detainees.

The wilaya comes out of its lethargy

The high turnout at Friday’s sit-in finally alerted the authorities. Very late yesterday evening, the wali of the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region, Mohamed Mhidia, chaired at the headquarters of the M’diq-Fnideq prefecture, “a meeting for the official launch of the programme relating to the development and implementation of support and coaching mechanisms aimed at boosting employability and promoting entrepreneurship for the benefit of people in precarious situations, especially women and youth,” says the Agency for the Promotion and Development of the North in a statement.

The same source recalls that “the first phase of the programme was crowned by the launching of the implementation of the first phase of the economic activity zone in Fnideq, with a budget of about 200 million dirhams, and which will undoubtedly contribute to the reinforcement and diversification of the economic offer on the whole territory”.

The anger of the inhabitants of Fnideq heavily hit by the closure of the borders with Ceuta is not new. They have already alerted the authorities and the government to the precariousness of their living conditions well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the local authorities had banned the holding of a sit-in scheduled for 1 December 2019 at the call of associative actors to protest against “the poor economic conditions in the city”. The same ban also affected the planned protest, on 22 September 2020 in front of the headquarters of the prefecture of M’Diq-Fnideq at the call of a trade union section of the Moroccan Labour Union, on the grounds of “the preservation of order and general safety and public health”.

What happened last night in Fnideq is likely to happen again in Nador. Here too, thousands of families are deprived of financial resources because of the closure of the border with Melilla. Calls to demonstrate have also been stifled by the local authorities.

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

February 05, 2021

COVID-19 in Morocco: downward trend or calm before the storm?

There has been a decrease in the reproduction rate of COVID-19 and in the number of new cases of contamination, but also more and more recoveries and fewer and fewer deaths. Does this mean that the health situation in Morocco is improving?

Gone are the dark hours of the health crisis when, in the Casablanca metropolis alone, the daily toll of COVID-19-related contaminations passed the 2,000-case mark. Today, all the signals are green. The health situation in Morocco is improving. Proof of this is that the reproduction rate (R0) of COVID-19 shows a continuous improvement to the point of stabilising at 0.80 last Sunday, as announced by the Ministry of Health. As for the number of positive cases, it continues to fall, for the 11th consecutive week, and the weekly epidemiological curve relating to the new coronavirus in Morocco showed a decrease of 26.4% until January 31. These data are not only concrete, but updated since they emerge from the Health Department’s bimonthly report on the epidemiological situation, as presented Tuesday by the head of the communicable diseases division at the Directorate of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Abdelkrim Meziane Belfkih.

In addition, the positivity rate has increased from 25 to 10 percent, and recently to 6 percent, while the number of cases in intensive care has decreased significantly from more than 1,100 to less than 700 cases. In the indicators provided by the guardianship, we note in particular significant decreases in the regions of Guelmim-Oued Noun, Fès-Meknès, Draâ-Tafilalet, Souss-Massa, Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, Tangier-Tétouan-Al Hoceima, Casablanca-Settat, Marrakech-Safi, l’Oriental, Béni Mellal-Khénifra and Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra. The only drawback here is that the epidemiological curve has been on the rise in the Dakhla-Oued Eddahab region. The number of deaths has fallen by 40% in the last two weeks. There has also been a 22% drop in active cases and a 20.4% drop in cases in intensive care during the same period. How can we explain this new, rather reassuring trend? Dr. Tayeb Hamdi, as vice-president of the National Health Federation, explains that a regression – even a decline – of the pandemic is being observed around the world.

“No scientific explanation”

This regression is attributable to the barrier measures put in place by the various countries to curb the spread of the virus, explains the specialist. “The World Health Organisation has noted, over the past three weeks, that the disease has remained stable or even receded throughout the world, due in particular to the restrictive measures put in place by the countries most affected by COVID-19,” he observes, before adding that containment has greatly contributed to limiting the speed of the virus’ spread throughout the world and in Morocco. However, he continues, “from a scientific point of view, there is no scientific evidence to explain this new trend”. A three-week regression of the pandemic, depending on the level of the different countries, is not enough to consider that the virus is disappearing, however, Dr Hamdi stresses. Instead, experts expect an increase in the number of infections.

A boost to the vaccination campaign!

In any case, the current situation encourages the smooth running of the national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in the ranks of the health care staff, Dr. Moulay Saïd Afif, President of the Moroccan Society of Medical Sciences (SMSM), was delighted to announce. The positive development of indicators in Morocco “allows health workers to be vaccinated in a calm manner and not be disturbed by the increase in the number of contaminations, as has been experienced, for example, in England,” Dr. Afif explained in a statement to MAP. By way of example, Dr. Afif mentioned the case of private doctors, pharmacists and dental surgeons in Casablanca, where more than 3,300 professionals of these bodies were vaccinated in three days, representing 60% of the nursing staff over 40 years of age, according to figures provided by the Regional Council of the Order of Physicians. Since the start of the vaccination campaign, a total of more than 250,000 people have received COVID-19 injections.

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

February 04, 2021

Extension of the state of health emergency until March 10

The state of health emergency is again extended for a further month.

Almost a year after the state of health emergency was declared, the Governing Council, meeting on Thursday 4 February in Rabat, decided to extend it throughout the country until 10 March 2021, “as part of efforts to combat the spread of the pandemic of the new coronavirus,” reports the MAP agency.
It should be noted that the curfew at 9 p.m. and the closure of shops and restaurants at 8 p.m. have been extended until at least 16 February.

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

Morocco maintains the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals over 65 years old

The National Adhoc Scientific Committee for the development of the vaccination strategy against Sars-Cov-2 met this Thursday in Rabat to give its opinion on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people over 65 years of age. In a press release received by Yabiladi, the Health Ministry said that Morocco maintains the use of this vaccine for this age group, as initially recommended in the national strategy of vaccination against COVID-19.

The same source indicates that following questions raised in recent days about the effectiveness and safety of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the population aged 65 and over, the Committee considered that “the vaccine against Covid developed by AstraZeneca has obtained authorisation for use, without age limit at 65, from the European Medicines Agency and the health authorities of several countries”. Furthermore, “the phase 3 clinical trial of this vaccine includes a subgroup of people over 65 years of age among whom 687 people received the vaccine, 4 of whom developed COVID-19, and 666 people in the control group, 7 of whom developed COVID-19”, it is recalled.

For the committee and to date, “the data from this clinical trial do not allow conclusions to be drawn as to the exclusion of this age group from the beneficiaries of this vaccine”. The same source believes “that protection is expected for this age group, given that high seroconversion rates have been observed in adults over 65 years of age after the first dose (97.8%) and the second dose (100%)”.
As for the safety of this vaccine, “published data show that reported adverse reactions are generally milder and less frequent in people over 65 years of age compared to younger people”, it is estimated.

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

February 03, 2021

Agadir: Foreign residents aged over 75 receive their first dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 (Report)

Foreigners residing in Morocco, aged 75 and over, are also among the beneficiaries of the first phase of vaccination. Our team met a couple of French nationals who have been living in Morocco for 15 years and who received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in one of the 16 centres dedicated to the vaccination operation in the city of Agadir.

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