February 22 – March 02, 2021 | Press Review Morocco

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

March 02, 2021

1 year already since the 1st case of COVID-19 in Morocco

On March 02, 2020, Morocco announced the registration of the first case of the new Coronavirus: a Moroccan national resident in Italy.

The case was confirmed by the laboratory of the Institut Pasteur-Morocco. Since then, Morocco has taken early and decisive measures against the epidemic. The first measures to stem the spread of the virus were based on preventive actions, which were triggered as soon as the first case was registered on 2 March. The closure of air, land and sea borders was announced, followed by the closure of schools and universities, cafés, restaurants and non-essential shops, and finally the closure of places of worship and the banning of demonstrations. Mandatory health containment was introduced on 20 March.

In a spirit of mutual aid and solidarity, King Mohammed VI instructed the government to immediately set up a special fund dedicated to the management of the Coronavirus pandemic. This fund, endowed with 10 billion dirhams, has been reserved, on the one hand, to cover the expenses of upgrading the medical system, in terms of adapted infrastructures and additional means to be acquired, as a matter of urgency. It also served, on the other hand, to support the national economy, through a battery of measures, particularly in terms of support for sectors vulnerable to the shocks induced by the Coronavirus crisis, such as tourism, as well as in terms of preserving jobs and mitigating the social repercussions of this crisis.

To date, Morocco has 3,568,670 people vaccinated, 483,766 confirmed cases, 8,637 deaths and 469,345 recoveries.

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

Morocco suspends all contact with the German embassy as a result of tensions between Rabat and Berlin

A correspondence dated 1 March and leaked on social networks signed Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs, informs the head of government and all members of the Executive of the “suspension of all contact with the German embassy in Rabat”. For a long time, recurrent tensions between Rabat and Berlin have led to this rupture.

By a correspondence dated 1 March, Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs informed the head of government Saaddin El Otmani and all members of the Executive of the “suspension of all contact with the German Embassy in Rabat.
“Due to the deep misunderstandings with the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the fundamental issues of the Kingdom of Morocco, the ministerial departments and all the bodies under their supervision are kindly requested to suspend any contact, interaction or cooperation action, under any circumstances and in any form, with the German Embassy in Morocco as well as with the German cooperation bodies and political foundations linked to it”.
Any exception to this suspension will have to be subject to the prior agreement of the Moroccan diplomacy, adds Bourita’s letter, which indicates that his department has already taken the decision to no longer communicate with the diplomatic representation of Berlin in Rabat.
Bourita’s circular letter does not explicitly state the reasons for this decision. However, an authorised source at Foreign Affairs told the Desk that “this letter was not intended to be circulated (…), there is no precision…”.

Bourita’s circular letter to members of the governmentThe leaked letter gave rise to much speculation. The campaign on social networks against the country’s institutions led by Mohamed Hajib, a Salafist and former prisoner resident in Germany is cited. According to Jeune Afrique, Moroccan authorities issued an international arrest warrant against him to Interpol on 13 August. He had welcomed on 8 February on Twitter the fact that Interpol had finally rejected Morocco’s request by withdrawing his name from the persons targeted by a Red Notice.

The Sahara issue, a point of contention?

Another point of contention mentioned, on the sidelines of the campaign led by Andreas Schieder (SPÖ), the new Austrian president of the “Intergroup for Western Sahara” which called on February 26 the European Union and the ICRC to react to the “abuses” of Morocco, the Polisario flag was hoisted for a few hours last Saturday in front of the German regional parliament in Bremen. An image that was strongly displeased in Rabat…
Relations between Rabat and Berlin, like those with the Netherlands or certain Scandinavian countries, are regularly strained.
First of all, it is said in diplomatic circles that Berlin would be totally reluctant to consider a change in its position on the Sahara after the Trump administration’s recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory. A position “that would block a European dynamic in favour of the kingdom,” it is understood in diplomatic circles, in comparison with France, which would be in favour of a “concerted movement of EU powers, including Germany, but also Spain.
In a press release issued by the German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 11 December, Germany also warmly welcomed the announcement of the normalisation of relations between Morocco and Israel and the American mediation. However, it was stressed that “the German government’s position on the Western Sahara conflict has not changed. We are determined to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution under the mediation of the United Nations,” the German statement concluded.
In the wake of this, Berlin called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on 17 December to assess the situation, which for Rabat was a sign of tension on the part of the European heavyweight.

German foundations accused of interference by Rabat

Moreover, the negotiation of the future “Partnership for multi-sectoral reforms” between Morocco and Germany, which was the subject of a memorandum signed on 29 November 2019 in Berlin, was interrupted one month later.
Object of the conflict, the will of the influential German political foundations Konrad Adenauer, Friedrich Ebert, Friedrich Naumann, Heinrich Böll and Hanns Seidel, stakeholders in this programme worth 571 million euros for the period 2020-2022, to obtain a specific status for Morocco, which considers them as mere associations.
However, Abdelouafi Laftit, Minister of the Interior, and Nasser Bourita, had signified their refusal to Götz Schmidt-Bremme, German ambassador in Rabat, who actively defended this demand. The reason given by Rabat was the “policy of interference” of these foundations in Morocco’s internal affairs, particularly on the issue of subsidies granted to certain NGOs. Have new elements on this supposed entryism pushed Morocco to the breaking point, as mentioned by government sources?
Andrea Nüsse, the former director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s branch office in Morocco, had left Morocco in 2015, “following pressure from the Moroccan authorities”, claimed her entourage. The Moroccan authorities had given her 24 hours to leave the country, her presence in Morocco was no longer desirable. The authorities allegedly took this decision following the support provided by the German foundation to activities considered “harmful to the interests of the state”.
In January 2015, Le360 attacked the person responsible, describing her media appearances as “an aggressive campaign” against Morocco. Already at the time, several meetings had taken place between the heads of the German foundations (Friedrich Ebert, Konrad Adenauer, Friedrich Naumann and Heinrich Böll) and the German ambassador in Rabat, following complaints from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The authorities accused these NGOs of financing “subversive activities” and accused them, indirectly and through the press, of “interfering in Moroccan-Moroccan affairs”.

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

France – Morocco: What are the important points in the agreement on unaccompanied minor migrants

Since the visit to Morocco of the French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, and the announcement of an agreement signed on 7 December 2020, with the kingdom for the management of the situation of Moroccan minors isolated in France, the chancelleries of the two countries still do not communicate on the content of this document. But the latter was recently obtained by the Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigrés (GISTI) after a leak.

Known as the “Scheme of procedure for the care of Moroccan UFMs” and dated 2019, this five-page document, which can be consulted on the GISTI’s website, sets the framework for cooperation between the two countries, mainly for the return of minors to Morocco. Indeed, it gives the possibility of deporting unaccompanied minors without their consent and without agreement with the family concerned. To this end, it allows the use of public force in the ‘most serious situations and when there is no prospect of convincing the minor, nor is there any possibility for the service to which the child is entrusted to proceed otherwise'”.

The GISTI warns about a worrying agreement

The agreement also lays down a condition for access to educational assistance, noting that such assistance is, “without prejudice to any criminal offence”, part of the classic procedure. It also seems to want to get rid of some of the requirements relating to requests for cooperation on the protection of minors between France and Morocco. Indeed, these requests are “transmitted through the central authorities designated for the application of the Hague Convention of 19 October 1996”. The text mentions that “provision could be made for more direct cooperation, to be determined jointly with the Moroccan authorities within the framework of the application of the procedural scheme”.

Furthermore, and if a minor commits “the most serious offences or those which have caused significant harm”, the text provides that the young person’s “penal situation” should “preferably be served in France before placement in Morocco”. “The procedures in progress at the public prosecutor’s office” can also be “denounced for the purpose of prosecution to the Moroccan authorities”. In other words, the agreement opens the possibility for France to expel under-18s for prosecution in Morocco.

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

March 01, 2021

Morocco suspends its air links with Italy and Belgium

Morocco is in the process of closing down after the discovery on its soil of more than twenty cases of contamination with the English variant of COVID-19, which is ravaging Europe.

Thus, and as part of its fight against the spread of the Coronavirus, Morocco has suspended its air links with Italy and Belgium as of this night of Monday 1 March.

The news was announced by the general manager of the airline company Air Arabia Maroc.

Italy and Belgium thus join several European countries, where the English variant is gaining ground and with which the Kingdom has decided to suspend its air links, notably Switzerland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

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

Morocco extends precautionary measures against COVID-19

The government has decided to extend the precautionary measures adopted on 13 January last to fight against the new coronavirus (COVID-19) by two weeks, starting on Tuesday 2 March at 9 pm.

A government press release specifies that this decision is based on the recommendations of the Scientific and Technical Commission on the need to maintain the measures necessary to fight against the coronavirus.

The extension also comes after the global evolution of the pandemic following the emergence of new variants of the virus, the statement continued, saying it is part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the epidemic and limit its negative impact.

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

27 February, 2021

The school environment shows a low rate of overall positivity

Carried out last January under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, a screening operation for COVID-19 infections in schools indicated a low positivity rate of 2.4%. But from one region to another, this rate varies greatly from one region to another.

Two services under the Ministry of Health used the results of screening operations conducted last January in schools to gain a better understanding of the epidemiological situation regarding the spread of the new coronavirus in schools. In a recently published report, the Directorate of Epidemiology and Disease Control (DELM) and the National Centre for Emergency Public Health Operations (CNOUSP) indicates that out of 31,611 pupils tested, 767 were positive, a rate of 2.4%.

While the low overall positivity value in schools can be reassuring, there are considerable regional differences in this rate. Indeed, the more a region is affected by the pandemic, the more this implies a high positivity also in schools. Thus, this value can reach double, with 4.8% in Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceïma, or drop to 0.7%, as is the case in Marrakech-Safi.

The variants of COVID-19 would be practically absent among the students.

Other results indicate that of all these positive cases, only five are former patients. Furthermore, 2.6% of the young people infected are symptomatic, but show “mild signs of acute respiratory infection and/or sensory signs”. Also, 77.5% of the COVID+ were part of a group of affected cases in their schools.

That said, “out of the total of 767 positive cases, 458 (60%) were referred to the INH for screening to detect new variants due to the lack of amplification of the S gene target”. This “analysis did not reveal any new variants”, says the report, consulted by Yabiladi.

In addition, “153 (20%) samples from the regions of RSK, TTA, FM, MS and SM were sequenced, including 30 carried out at the Military Training Hospital in Marrakech, showed no mutation of interest”. Also, “thirty-two per cent of the samples (246), collected mainly from the CS region, are in the process of being sequenced”.

The pupils concerned by these screenings in secondary schools and high schools are spread over six regions among those with a large number of global infections with the new coronavirus, notably in Casablanca-Settat, Rabat-Salé-Kénitra, Tangier-Tétouan-Al Hoceïma, Fès-Meknès, Marrakech-Safi and Souss-Massa. The analysis is of great importance, as it provides information on the impact of the emergence of new variants of COVID-19, which are likely to be highly contagious among young people and adolescents.

Consequently, the aim of this operation was to “estimate the level of circulation of SARS-CoV-2 in the population of secondary school pupils, estimate the proportion of asymptomatic forms among these pupils, genetically characterise the variants circulating in this same population” and “raise awareness among pupils and their parents about the preventive measures to be taken against COVID-19”.

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

February 26, 2021

Nationals of sub-Saharan countries, “without rights” in the southern provinces?

Carried out collectively by Euromed droits and several associative organisations, an analysis on the situation of foreigners in southern Morocco during the current health crisis evokes the living conditions made difficult for nationals from West and Central Africa residing in Laâyoune-Es Sakia El Hamra and Dakhla-Oued Ed Dahab.

On the basis of data collected by Euromed droits with the support of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), the Platform of Sub-Saharan Associations and Communities in Morocco (ASCOMS) and the Moroccan Network of Migration Journalists (RMJM), an analysis has shown the situation of foreigners living in the south of Morocco, as experienced between March and September 2020. This document, which has reached Yabiladi, is being disseminated more than a year after the observation of a resumption of migratory departures to Spain from the South Atlantic.

In this context, the health crisis caused by the pandemic of the new coronavirus has accentuated vulnerabilities, often blocking access to basic rights, according to the document. For example, the document reports “increased tension in areas close to the Canary Islands” and “experimentation with policies of confinement of foreigners”, with “systematically discriminatory measures on the basis of skin colour or proven or supposed ‘ethnic’ origin”.

Gathered from migrants on the spot, testimonies included in this note confirm the cases of violations, in a context where the measures of the state of health emergency have reinforced the limits to freedom of movement. This situation has also been very marked by a reinforcement of “the intervention of the security forces and the administration, without any judicial control, justifying the security operations relating to the arrest and detention of non-Moroccan nationals by the non-respect of the state of health emergency or protection against COVID-19”.

Integration made even more difficult in 2020

The voluntary organisations indicated that they had observed a failure to comply with procedures and preventive measures on the part of the authorities when arresting and detaining foreigners in detention centres with “unclear status”, without minimum conditions of hygiene and physical distance. “Detention has become a regular practice on the part of the Moroccan authorities, which raises the question of the legal status of these centres,” the note deplores.

“I spent the three months of confinement in the Al Qods youth centre in Laayoune. I lived through the worst moments of my life. I was detained without good reason. However, I work in Laayoune and I have a home. My wife was pregnant and she needed me, but the authorities wouldn’t listen. All this time I was detained without being told the reasons for it”

Migrants’ testimony

Also, “non-Moroccan nationals, particularly in an irregular administrative situation, have encountered difficulties in obtaining the movement permit issued by the authorities, which has hindered authorised travel, particularly to support themselves”, exposing them to arrest and making it even more difficult for them to access rights related to employment, health services and justice.

After months of health crisis, measures to combat the spread of the pandemic have also revealed the limits of the adaptation of migration policy to the context of the health crisis, particularly in terms of integration.

“The COVID-19 pandemic confirmed the inconsistencies and limits of Morocco’s migration policy in general, and of the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum (SNIA) in particular, which breaks down migration policy into political actions and programmes. In these times marked by a triple crisis (health, social and economic), the government has not kept its commitments promoted in particular within the framework of the SNIA” Euromed Rights

The note referred to this aspect, all the more so as many migrants have experienced difficulties since March 2020 in renewing their expired residence permits or in obtaining a residence permit. “Since the end of the first regularisation operation in 2014, the security approach is dominant in the implementation of migration policies, particularly in border areas”, the document indicated.

According to the authors, “this approach intensified after the second regularisation operation”, with a trend that “was confirmed during the state of health emergency, jeopardising access to health for all and respect for the fundamental rights of foreigners in Morocco”. This “dramatic situation”, particularly in the south of Morocco, “is an illustration of the lack of concrete measures to take care of these populations”, the same source points out.

A security turn in the treatment of migration issues

In the context of the pandemic, the note states that “the Moroccan authorities have intensified their fight against irregular migration, contributing to the control of European Union (EU) borders, to the detriment of the rights of foreigners”. As a result, “this exceptional situation presented as a law enforcement operation has given rise to certain situations of abuse of power and threats to freedoms and human rights contrary to Morocco’s constitutional principles and international commitments”.

Indeed, the same source recalls the principle of the Moroccan Constitution, according to which “rights and freedoms may not be infringed regardless of the exceptional measures taken”, in accordance with Articles 21 and 24 of the text. The latter provide for a commitment by the public authorities to ensure, in all circumstances, “the security of the population and the national territory in respect of the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed to all”.

Moreover, “international human rights law authorises the taking of exceptional measures by States, but it is a condition for the respect of rights and freedoms”, as provided for in Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

According to the testimonies collected, the note considers that arrests and confinement in the centres are “not part of any procedure”, especially since “people are not brought before any judge and are not informed of the reasons for their arrest or deprivation of liberty”. One of the justifications “given unofficially” remains “often the violation of the state of health emergency”. In practice, these arrests “could be similar to measures taken outside the health emergency, but rather as part of procedures to combat irregular migration”, the same source states.

These measures would seem disproportionate, according to the authors, since “the number of foreigners affected by COVID-19 is estimated at 150 cases out of the 4,036 cases recorded in the three southern regions”.

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

275 Thousand Japanese dollars for African refugees in Morocco

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) implemented in Rabat a project in the amount of $275,000 to support the UNHCR’s response programme to the COVID-19 crisis in favour of refugees residing in Morocco.

As of 1 February 2021, more than 14,000 people, spread over 75 localities in Morocco, are registered with the UNHCR, including 8,300 refugees and nearly 5,700 asylum seekers. Following the emergence of the pandemic in March 2020, the protection needs of this vulnerable population have been exacerbated, impacting their socio-economic situation, their ability to meet their basic needs, their psychological state and their mental health. Consequently, the UNHCR has continued to operate and has had to adapt quickly to this new context while respecting the guidelines and measures undertaken by the Moroccan government in order to continue to meet the growing protection and assistance needs of these populations.

At the same time, JICA also continued its activities and projects to support the Government of Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, including the COVID-19 Crisis Response Support Loan, signed with the Government of Morocco in December 2020. The UNHCR-JICA project, which will be implemented from March to September 2021, will both assist refugees from a medical point of view, particularly in the context of prevention and awareness raising on COVID-19, and also support project leaders whose income-generating activities have been severely affected.

The implementation of this project will be carried out in close collaboration with UNHCR’s implementing partners: the Moroccan Family Planning Association (AMPF) for the medical component and the Moroccan Association for Support to the Promotion of Small Business (AMAPPE) for the empowerment of refugees through self-employment; thus enabling better local integration in their host country.

JICA’s support to UNHCR programmes is in line with the spirit of the National Strategy for Immigration and Asylum (SNIA) and the multi-stakeholder approach of the Global Compact on Refugees. This project will also reinforce JICA’s commitment to fighting disparities in Morocco and supporting vulnerable populations, particularly during this pandemic situation. This JICA-UNHCR partnership is all the more important as it symbolises the beginning of a partnership between the two agencies that will last for the long term

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

February 25, 2021

English variant or the spectre of a reconfinement

Since the announcement by the Ministry of Health of the discovery of 24 cases of contamination with the English variant, the spectre of containment has resurfaced. On social networks, Internet users talk of nothing else, fearing a second round of confinement that would further reduce their freedom of movement, more than it is today with the curfew.

Known for its strong contagiousness, the British variant is driving up the number of contaminations to exponential figures in most of the countries where it has appeared. England has found itself obliged to reconfine following a significant increase in cases, despite numerous complaints from citizens. But this eventually bore fruit, and the situation has now stabilised. So what about Morocco, which is in its first cases of the new B117 variant?

Contacted by Hespress Fr, the director of the biotechnology laboratory of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Rabat, Prof. Azzedine Ibrahimi assures us that the two vaccines chosen by the Kingdom, Sinopharm and Astrazeneca, are effective against the English variant, but not against the Brazilian and South African. For this reason, the specialist recommends increasing the rate of mass vaccination to protect those at risk and vulnerable.

While insisting on the fact that the British variant is more contagious and can quickly attack vulnerable people, Prof. Ibrahimi recommends protecting oneself and not letting go of barrier gestures for a very simple reason.

“It’s because the viruses will multiply. And if the multiplication is very rapid, it will lead to the virus mutating. These mutations concern the different characteristics of the original virus. We’re starting to talk about variants. And these variants can affect diagnosis, pathogenicity, i.e. the severity of the disease, and circulation. And of course everything that is vaccination,” he explains.

For the time being, the vaccines chosen by Morocco are effective against this English variant, the scientist points out, but stresses that we are not immune. “If the virus continues to multiply, we could see the appearance of more dangerous variants, such as the Brazilian and South African. Moreover, the Brazilian one, which is P1, affects the pathogenicity, so the disease becomes more severe. For the South African variant, all the vaccines that have been developed so far may be less effective against this variant and that’s something we don’t want in our country”. Ibrahimi argues.

In order to overcome this ordeal and avoid an outbreak of cases and deaths due to this new British variant, Prof. Ibrahimi believes that this step needs everyone’s involvement.

It is a contractual pact between the state and the citizens. The State will try to bring back more vaccines and speed up the rate of vaccination and thus reach the 80% of people vaccinated in order to achieve collective immunity, while the citizens must respect the barrier gestures which are very very simple (wearing a mask, distancing …) and thus avoid having to reconfine the whole country.

“In England, the circulation of the virus has reached 25 to 30% since the appearance of the new variant B117. They were therefore obliged to reconfine, which we don’t want for Morocco. We want everyone to get involved to deal with it, State and citizens alike. Because at the end of the day, we, from a scientific point of view, have reached a certain point, we are going to give the scientific data “.

He warns: “We’re not going to end up in the situation where we explain that the variant has reached such a stage and if it continues we’re going to reach a dangerous stage, and deaths are going to increase, etc.”. And on the basis of scientific data, the State must take the necessary decisions. Decisions that are known to the general public, namely containment or partial containment. And we don’t want to go there. But there is a risk if there is no general involvement.

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

February 23, 2021

Moroccan vaccines and effectiveness against the English variant

A few days before the effective launch of the national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 Morocco announced that it had discovered its first case of contamination by the English variant of the new coronavirus. The case involved a Moroccan who arrived at the Port of Tangiers on board a boat from the city of Marseille.

To deal with this new strain, the Ministry of Health has set up a consortium of laboratories with a functional sequencing platform. As part of its genomic monitoring strategy for the new SARS-CoV2 coronavirus, the main mission of this Consortium is to identify the SARS-CoV2 variants circulating in Morocco and characterise them by genomic sequencing.

This process has made it possible to detect 24 cases of the English variant in the Kingdom, announced Khalid Ait Taleb’s department on 20 February, noting that the genomic watch has not detected any other South African or Brazilian variants in the country, thus calling on citizens to be more vigilant.

It should be remembered that the British variant is much more virulent and highly contagious, up to 70%, leading to a significant increase in positive cases of COVID-19 in a fairly short period of time. And the world has witnessed this in England, but also in France.

The question that arises in the face of this epidemiological novelty is whether the vaccines chosen by Morocco, namely the Chinese Sinopharm and the British Astrazeneca, are effective against the English variant?

Affirmative, says the president of the National Health Federation (FNS), Prof. Moulay Said Afif, contacted by Hespress Fr on this subject. “We thank God that we have neither the South African nor the Brazilian variant where the efficacy of the vaccine is questioned. This is the most important detail in my opinion,” notes the specialist.

In support of his comments, Prof. Afif explains that “the vaccines chosen by Morocco are effective against the English variant as evidenced by the decrease in hospitalizations in England since the launch of mass vaccination in the country. And among the vaccines chosen by the English is the Astrazeneca for which Morocco has also opted”, he says.

“Citizens must remain prudent and continue to respect preventive health measures (wearing masks, physical distancing, etc.) so as not to experience what was experienced in England and what France is experiencing today in terms of epidemiology. Failure to comply with hygiene measures will lead to an increase in positive cases at COVID-19 and, as a result, more restrictions, including confinement if the situation worsens, which we do not want”. he advocated.

To avoid going back to square one, i.e. the introduction of confinement, Prof. Said Afif called on citizens to “remain prudent and continue to respect the health measures in force until the 80% of the population over 17 years of age is vaccinated and thus achieve the collective immunity that we are seeking”.

Researchers in charge of the British vaccine thus specified at the beginning of the month that the vaccine against COVID-19, developed by the University of Oxford and the Astrazeneca laboratory, retains a “similar effectiveness” against the English variant which appeared in the south of England.

In a press release, Oxford University said that analyses of clinical trials conducted between 1 October and 14 January in the UK showed “protection against similar symptomatic infections despite a lower amount of neutralising antibodies”.

Similarly, the head of the UK vaccine trials, Professor Andrew Pollard, said the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the new B117 variant that caused the resurgence of the disease in the UK from the end of 2020″.

As for the other South African and Brazilian variants of concern, Oxford University and the Astrazeneca laboratory have not provided any comforting data.

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

AstraZeneca’s vaccine supply: Morocco will have to be patient

As Morocco continues its vaccination campaign, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India (STI), has called on countries waiting for supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to be “patient”, having been ordered to prioritise India’s “enormous needs”.

“Dear countries and governments, while awaiting the supply of #COVISHIELD, I humbly ask you to be patient,” Adar Poonawalla, head of the Serum Institute of India, tweeted on Sunday. “@SerumInstIndia has been asked to prioritise India’s enormous needs and balance them with the needs of the rest of the world. We are doing our best,” he said. This decision could lead to delays in the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses ordered by Morocco. So far, the Kingdom has received 6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. Contacted by ALM, Said Afif, President of the Moroccan Society of Medical Sciences and member of the National Technical Committee of Vaccination, said: “It is not a problem if there are delays in the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines from India as the national vaccination strategy has given priority to the most vulnerable people, namely the elderly.

We started the campaign with people over 75 years of age. People over 65 years of age are currently receiving their first dose of the vaccine and we will start the 60 to 64 age group on Wednesday. The vaccination of these people will protect them from severe forms of VIDC-19, which account for 85% or even 90% of intensive care hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19″. Dr. Afif says the other reassuring point is that Morocco’s current epidemiological situation has improved significantly, with a considerable drop in the number of infections and deaths.

In addition, there have been no cases of the South African and Brazilian variant detected in Morocco so far. The “British” variant of COVID-19 is worrying because of its increased contagiousness. However, the other two South African and Brazilian variants are of greater concern. In addition to their increased contagiousness, they appear to be more resistant to antibodies. Therefore, health authorities need to pay particular attention to monitoring the Brazilian and South African variants. While waiting for the vaccines to arrive, Dr Afif stresses the importance of barrier measures as an effective weapon against COVID-19.

Expanded vaccination for 60-64 year olds

The national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 will be extended to the 60 to 64 age group starting February 24. This was announced by the Ministry of Health in a press release issued on Sunday evening. In parallel with the vaccination of the categories currently targeted, namely those over 65 years of age, the vaccination operation will thus be extended to people aged 60 to 64 as well as to the first group of people suffering from chronic diseases, including cancerous diseases, and who benefit from compulsory medical coverage schemes (CNOPS, CNSS) and RAMED, the ministry said. The guardianship invites all citizens belonging to the targeted categories to continue their adhesion to this national campaign, with a view to achieving collective immunity. They are invited to send an SMS to the free number 1717 or by consulting the liqahcorona.ma website to find out the date and place of vaccination. The ministry also insists on the need to continue to respect preventive measures before, during and after the vaccination operation against COVID-19, to contribute to efforts to fight against the spread of the virus, particularly after the discovery of new variants in Morocco. It should be recalled that 24 cases of the English variant have been detected in Morocco by the health services. Khaled Ait Taleb’s department had reported that none of the South African or Brazilian variants had been notified. Following the appearance of these new cases, the health services had called on citizens to be more vigilant. The number of people vaccinated as of Sunday 21 February was 2,447,716, the department said, noting that 13,476 people had received their second dose.

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

February 22, 2021

Coronavirus variants: The details of tracking down COVID-19 Variants

Set up last Tuesday, the Consortium of laboratories in charge of identifying new variants of COVID-19 announced on Saturday the detection of 21 new cases of contamination by the English variant. Immersion in this COVID-19 mutation hunt.

After the daily hunt for new cases of Coronavirus which has punctuated the lives of Moroccans since March 2020, a new hunt is currently underway: that of the new variants of COVID-19. If the activities of genomic sequencing of the Coronavirus in Morocco began last May, it was only Tuesday that the Ministry of Health announced the establishment of a Consortium of laboratories whose mission will be to identify the variants circulating in the Kingdom and to characterize them by genomic sequencing. Set up within the framework of the genomic watch strategy of the new SARS-CoV Coronavirus, the consortium is composed of the reference laboratory of influenza and respiratory viruses of the National Institute of Hygiene, the laboratory of Medical BioTechnology of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Rabat, the functional genomic platform of the National Centre for Scientific Research as well as the Pasteur Institute of Casablanca.

First cases detected

“The sequencing of SARS-CoV2 strains collected from various public and private laboratories, including mobile laboratories and laboratories on board ships transporting passengers from Europe to Morocco, is carried out on a continuous basis between the consortium’s laboratories”, underlines a press release from the Ministry of Health. The same source specifies that “any foreign variant is thus declared to the competent Directorates and a press release is published by the Ministry of Health to inform on the type of variant detected and the measures taken to stop its propagation”. On Saturday 20 February, five days after the official announcement of the launch of the Coalition’s sequencing platform, a first press release was issued to announce the detection of 21 new contaminations by the English strain. “Thus, the total number of cases of this variant amounts to 24 strains detected to date”, explains the Ministry of Health press release.

Absence of the other variants

The presence of the English variant was first detected in Morocco on 18 January 2021. At that time the National Institute of Hygiene stated that the strain had been identified in a Moroccan citizen returning from Ireland as well as in two other members of his family. All three individuals were treated in accordance with current health protocols. Although the 21 cases of people contaminated by the English strain announced in the Ministry of Health’s press release confirm that this variant has, despite efforts, been able to infiltrate and spread in Morocco, the health authorities nevertheless state that “the genomic monitoring system has not detected, to date, any South African or Brazilian variant”. The technique used to detect new strains is not limited to the only known variants: “Genomic sequencing not only makes it possible to identify the variants already described, but also to detect, God forbid, any strains unknown until now,” says Dr Filali Mounir, biologist and director of the G Lab.

The call for vigilance

Thus, following the example of the daily press releases announcing the number of new cases of COVID-19, a new dashboard will be added that will specify the cases relating to the new variants detected thanks to genomic sequencing efforts. This system also confirms the Kingdom’s compliance with WHO recommendations, which recently recalled the importance of geographical coverage of genetic sequencing, as well as the need to “share data relating to genetic sequences in databases accessible to the public”. One year after the start of the health crisis in Morocco, and despite the introduction of vaccines, the Ministry of Health reminds citizens that the COVID-19 virus continues to rage in our country and reiterates its appeal to all citizens to comply strictly with preventive and health measures.

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