March 03 – March 09, 2021 | Press Review Morocco

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

March 09, 2021

New COVID-19 variant: Morocco suspends flights with 6 other countries

Morocco has suspended flights to and from Poland, Norway, Finland, Greece, Lebanon, and Kuwait from Monday 08/03/2021 at midnight until 21/03/2021, the Moroccan Office of Airports (ONDA) announced in a publication on its facebook page.

“Suspension by the Moroccan authorities of flights to and from Poland, Norway, Finland, Greece, Lebanon, and Kuwait from Monday 08/03/2021 at midnight until 21/03/2021,” the post reads. “Passengers travelling from these countries through another country are also affected,” says the ONDA.

These countries are thus added to the list of 20 countries with which Morocco has suspended its air links due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the appearance of new variants of the virus.

The list includes: Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Denmark, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Algeria, Egypt, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Brazil.

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

Morocco adopts Russian Sputnik V and US Johnson-Johnson vaccines

The National Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee on Immunisation has validated the adoption of the Russian Sputnik V and American Johnson-Johnson vaccines, both single-dose, as part of the national vaccination campaign against the coronavirus.

According to Dr Said Afif, President of the National Federation of Health (FNS), the choice was made on these two vaccines taking into account the criteria of authorization and conservation.

The conditions of storage and conservation of the two vaccines are ordinary and easy, he added, noting however that if the Kingdom manages to come into possession of its previous orders, it will not be obliged to authorise new vaccines.

This decision to “go elsewhere”, he said, is part of proactive measures to ensure the success of the national vaccination campaign.

The Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, has been adopted in more than 25 countries around the world.

In this regard, the ambassador of the Russian Federation in Rabat, Valerian Shuvaev, had specified in a former statement to Hespress, that his country is willing to provide the Kingdom with vaccines, and that the matter is in the hands of Moroccan officials who are currently examining it.

As a reminder, long treated with suspicion by Western countries, the Sputnik V vaccine was recognised as 91.6% effective by the reference journal The Lancet, beating out some vaccines for its performance and ease of storage.

Experts had touted its merits, in that Sputnik V is, like AstraZeneca, the easiest vaccine to transport and store. Simple household refrigerators are sufficient to store it at 2°C to 8°C, whereas other vaccines require long-term storage at very low temperatures.

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

March 08, 2021

Around 60 migrants climb fence and force their way into Melilla

More than 150 migrants climbed the fence separating Morocco from Melilla, the Spanish enclave in the north of the country, at dawn on Monday. Only about 60 people managed to enter. The barbed wire wall in Melilla is regularly stormed by migrants trying to reach Europe via this African gateway.

Around 60 migrants managed to cross the fence separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from northern Morocco on Monday 8 March, the Spanish authorities announced.

More than 150 people massed on the Moroccan side of the border rushed towards the fence at around 6am local time (5am GMT) and “59 migrants managed to enter Melilla”, the Melilla prefecture announced in a statement, adding that three members of the Guardia Civil (Spanish security corps) and two migrants had been slightly injured.

The migrants who managed to enter were immediately taken to a health centre to be tested for COVID-19 and then quarantined, the prefecture said. They will then be placed in the enclave’s only reception centre, the CETI.

Melilla and Ceuta – the other Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast – are the European Union’s only land borders with Africa. Both enclaves are regularly the scene of mass charges by migrants trying to force their way through the fences separating them from Morocco.

On 19 January, another “charge” took place. Nearly 150 migrants tried to climb the border fence at dawn. Eighty-seven of them managed to cross onto Spanish soil despite the efforts of the security forces of both countries to prevent them. During this operation, nine migrants were injured and transferred to hospital. The others were treated at the CETI.

The last major operation of this kind took place on 20 August 2020, when around 300 people stormed the fence. Only about 30 of them had managed to enter Spain and one migrant had died in the attempt by falling several metres.

In the first two months of the year, 389 migrants managed to enter Ceuta and Melilla in this way, a significant drop compared to the 969 who did so in the same period in 2020, according to data from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.

Last year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, 1,755 migrants entered the two enclaves by land, a drop of 72% compared to the previous year (6,346).

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

Employment: how COVID-19 widened the gap

The Office of the High Commissioner for Planning (HCP), in partnership with UN Women, recently delivered a gender analysis of the impact of the new coronavirus on the economic, social and psychological situation of households. As part of its study, the HCP looked at the situation of Moroccan women in the context of the current health crisis. The specific aim is to highlight the gender dimension in the severity of the crisis and in the benefits derived from the palliative public policies initiated.

Precariousness of employment

The HCP already states that the health crisis has had a negative impact on the financial situation of many households, particularly those headed by women. Thus, by socio-professional category, the first part of the HCP survey shows that 55% and 73% of female heads of household, occupying respectively “middle management” and “qualified tradesmen or craftsmen”, declare that they have a member in their household who has stopped working in the private sector, against 41% and 68% for male heads of household. When we distinguish between sectors of activity, the differences are significant: in commerce, 72% of female heads of household (compared to 66% of men) say they have members of their household who have stopped working in the private sector because of the pandemic. “In a crisis situation, female-headed households are more vulnerable because they are less likely to have recourse to alternatives. As these members have in the past been more likely to get a job in these fragile sectors,” the HCP notes in its study. Of all households, only 14% of members of female-headed households continue to work in the private sector, compared to 22% of male-headed households.

The situation is deteriorating

Furthermore, the financial situation of women has deteriorated significantly during the health crisis due to their already vulnerable situation in the labour market. Indeed, explains the HCP, “in the sectors of agriculture, industry, trade and services, respectively 36%, 58%, 72% and 41% of households headed by women found themselves without income, compared to 32.5%, 53%, 46% and 33% of those headed by men. And to deal with this unprecedented crisis situation, the majority of women, who have lost their jobs, have sought public assistance. However, in this respect, “women were also less favoured”, according to the HCP. The low access of women to public aid, offered by the government to compensate for the loss of jobs and therefore of income, can be explained by their lower frequency of registration with the CNSS. This is why more women have relied on family allowances. It should be noted in this regard that women generally work in low-yield sectors that do not allow them to build up a safety cushion. This does not appear to be the case for men, who have savings because they work in jobs that give them the capacity to build up savings. In addition, the ability to return to work after leaving confinement was found to be lower for women. In sum, the HCP asserted that this situation of instability contributes to the fact that women have suffered more from the burden of financial constraints.

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

March 07, 2021

Morocco receives 500,000 new doses of Sinopharm vaccine

A dreamliner deployed by Royal Air Maroc landed on Sunday at Mohammed V airport in Casablanca after flying to Beijing, China. It carried 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine to the kingdom, according to sources.

“The B787-9 dreamliner landed in Beijing at around 00:38 local time (17:38 Moroccan time), after flying over Spain, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, Russia and finally Mongolia,” Le360 wrote on Saturday. Carrying the flight number AT3800, it is also reported on flight tracking platforms such as Flightradar24. The return flight landed on the tarmac of Mohammed V airport in Casablanca from Beijing.

From China, Morocco has thus received until today 1.5 million doses of the vaccine against the new coronavirus manufactured by the state laboratory, out of a global order of 40 million doses. The kingdom had participated in the clinical trials of the Chinese laboratory.

Morocco also received three batches of AstraZeneca vaccine from India, delivered by the Serum Institute Of India, totalling 7 million doses out of a global order of 22 million doses.

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

Promising trials for an oral drug against COVID-19

Pharmaceutical giant Merck and a US laboratory announced progress on Saturday in the development of an oral drug against COVID-19: their antiviral drug undergoing testing has shown positive effects in reducing viral load.

“Knowing that there is an unmet need for antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary results,” Wendy Painter, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ chief drug officer, said in a statement.

Merck halted work on two potential COVID-19 vaccines at the end of January but is continuing research on two treatments for the disease, including molnupiravir, developed with US company Ridgeback Bio.

The drug significantly reduced the viral load in patients after five days of treatment, the company said on Saturday at a meeting with infectious disease experts.

The phase 2a trial (trials have three phases before possible commercialisation) was conducted on 202 outpatients with Covid-19 with symptoms. There were no safety alerts, and “of the four serious incidents reported, none were considered to be related to the study drug,” the company said.

Anti-influenza drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are sometimes prescribed for seasonal flu, but research is struggling to find an antiviral against COVID-19.

The results of this study, “namely a more rapid decrease in viral load in individuals with early-stage COVID-19 who received molnupiravir, are promising,” said William Fischer, one of the study’s directors and a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina.

“If strengthened by additional studies, they could have important public health implications as the virus continues to spread and evolve around the world.

Merck is also working on a treatment called MK-711. Initial results from clinical trials show a reduction of more than 50% in the risk of death or respiratory failure in patients hospitalised with moderate to severe forms of COVID-19, the company said at the end of January.

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

March 06, 2021

Casablanca: Authorities dismantle a migrant camp in Oulad Ziane

The authorities of Casablanca have again proceeded, this Saturday, to the dismantling of a makeshift camp of sub-Saharan migrants near the bus station Oulad Ziane. According to Al3omk, this measure comes as a number of them have set up tents on the premises of a camp already dismantled a few months ago.

The local authorities have been working since Friday to evacuate the above-mentioned camp, where plastic tents are set up by migrants.

The same source recalls that the vicinity of the railway station has frequently seen interventions by the forces of order to dislodge sub-Saharan migrants. In 2019, a terrible fire broke out in this makeshift camp, without causing any deaths, which led the local authorities to dismantle it.

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

March 05, 2021

Morocco suspends flights to and from Algeria and Egypt

The Moroccan authorities have suspended flights to and from Algeria and Egypt until at least 21 March. This decision is part of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be re-evaluated every 15 days. Passengers from these countries in transit through another country are also affected.

Thus, Algeria and Egypt are added to the list of countries from and to which air traffic is temporarily suspended.

The suspension of flights includes, as previously announced, the following countries: United Kingdom, South Africa, Denmark, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, Belgium, Italy.

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

3,877,687 people vaccinated to date (dose 1)

Since the beginning of the vaccination operation in Morocco, a total of 3,877,687 people have been vaccinated (dose 1), until Friday, March 5, 2021 at 6:00 pm, of which 57,590 received their first dose of the vaccine during the last 24 hours, announced the Ministry of Health in its daily bulletin on the situation of the COVID-19.

He added that since the start of the second inoculations on Friday 19 February, the total number of people who have taken their second dose of vaccine has reached 499,942 to date, including 86,910 in the last 24 hours.

The vaccination campaign continues at a good pace after the reception of different batches of the British vaccine AstraZeneca, manufactured in India, and that of the Chinese laboratory, SinoPharm, in accordance with the high directives of HM King Mohammed VI.

It should be recalled that the Sovereign had personally launched the first phase of the national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 on January 28, 2021.

The Kingdom aims to immunize more than 30 million inhabitants (66 million doses of vaccine ordered) free of charge, with a view to reducing and then eliminating cases of contamination and deaths due to the new coronavirus pandemic.

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

March 04, 2021

French residents in Morocco received free COVID-19 vaccines

Following the Royal Instructions, foreign residents and especially French people living in Morocco, have benefited from free vaccines against COVID-19, the Association of French people in Rabat (AFR) said.

In this regard, the president, the Committee and the members of the AFR, “would like to warmly thank HM the King, who thanks to His generosity, has allowed French nationals in Morocco to be vaccinated in the same way as His people”, the Association is pleased to say, noting that the acts of vaccination and follow-up are taking place in “excellent conditions”.

“Our gratitude and good health wishes go to His Majesty the King, the Crown Prince and the entire Royal Family,” the AFR wrote.

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

Extension of the state of health emergency until 10 April 2021

The Government Council, meeting on Thursday in Rabat, decided to extend the state of health emergency throughout the national territory until April 10, 2021, as part of efforts to combat the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

Thus, the Council approved the draft decree n° 2.21.132 relating to the extension of the period of validity of the state of health emergency throughout the national territory presented by the Minister of Interior, said Saaid Amzazi, Government Spokesman, in a statement read during a press briefing held after the Government Council.

In a concern of the public authorities to continue to ensure the effectiveness of measures and provisions taken to address the spread of the pandemic “COVID-19”, this draft decree aims to extend the period of validity of the state of health emergency throughout the national territory from Wednesday, March 10, 2021 to Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 18:00 hours, added Mr. Amzazi.

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

March 03, 2021

Covid vaccination: pressure on the stock of the first doses

With the deliveries received so far of the COVID-19 vaccine, i.e. 8 million doses, Morocco can vaccinate 4 million people, the strategy adopted being to reserve the second dose for those who have received the first.

As of 3 March, 3,745,173 Moroccans have received their first dose of the vaccine. This means that the available stock of first doses will soon be exhausted. There are still 254,827 people who have yet to receive their first dose.

An average of 100,000 vaccinations per day

Since the start of vaccination on 2 March, the average rate is 119,000 vaccinations per day (1st dose). At this rate, the remaining stock will be consumed in two days.

So is Morocco likely to pause the first dose injection operation while waiting for new deliveries, or will it slow down the pace of vaccinations in the hope of getting new deliveries in the next few days?

“No, there will be no change in the pace of vaccination,” says a source at the Ministry of Health.

“The rhythm will be maintained at the same level. The logistics in place allow us to go up to 500,000 vaccinations per day. It will be maintained,” they explained.

3.4 million people are waiting for the second dose

Our source assures us that the centres will continue their activity insofar as the rate of administration of the second doses will increase.

For the moment, there is a daily average of 50,000 vaccinations, which will soon be doubled as the second dose curve follows that of the first.

The figures for the second dose will therefore increase significantly. “Things are going well. People are keeping their appointments,” says our source at the Ministry of Health.

To date, only 360,689 people have received the two doses and are therefore fully vaccinated. There are still 3,384,484 people to be immunised. This will allow the vaccination centres to remain in operation while new batches of vaccine are received.

A probable delivery this weekend

The question that remains is when the next delivery will take place. The Ministry of Health refuses to comment on the delivery schedule for two reasons.

The file is managed at government level with the involvement of other ministerial departments. But also because of the problems that occurred during the first delivery.

The delivery dates, revealed to the general public and creating high expectations, have changed more than once, causing disappointment and impatience.

Since then, the government has been very vigilant in evading any questions about delivery dates. It is the monitoring of flight schedules to China or India that gives the public clues about the likely arrival of new batches.

And that is exactly what is happening this weekend. According to our information, a special flight from Casablanca to Beijing is scheduled for Saturday 6 March.

The departure is scheduled for 5 am and the arrival for 5 pm. The plane will return on Sunday 7 March, hopefully with a new shipment that will allow the vaccination campaign to continue at a more sustained pace.

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