The suspect claimed on social media that two Moroccans have died from the virus.
Rabat – The Court of First Instance in Tetouan, northern Morocco, sentenced a young man to two months in prison and a fine of MAD 2,000 ($212) for spreading false rumors about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Morocco.
The court announced the sentence on Monday, March 9.
The judiciary police of Tetouan arrested the man on Wednesday, February 26, after he published a video on his Facebook account reporting several cases of COVID-19 infections in Morocco.
The footage showed the man in a cage wearing a medical mask and gloves.
“Be careful people, coronavirus is here. Two people died here due to the virus,” the man claimed in the video.
The two-month prison sentence is in line with the repeated warnings from Moroccan authorities against the dissemination of false rumors about COVID-19 that aim to cause panic and fear among citizens.
The only party authorized to communicate on the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic in Morocco is the Ministry of Health.
On February 27, one day after the arrest, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani warned about the dangers of spreading rumors on the virus.
False reports of an outbreak will “create panic and arm citizens,” warned El Othmani.
“This is absolutely unreasonable because it is necessary to verify the information by asking competent authorities. We have a national system for monitoring and control,” he affirmed.
In February, police arrested a man in Meknes and a woman in Fez for spreading rumors about the COVID-19 outbreak. At the time, the Ministry of Health had not yet confirmed any case of the epidemic in Morocco.
As of March 10, there are only three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Morocco.
The Ministry of Health confirmed the first and second cases in Casablanca on March 2 and 5, respectively. The patients are a man and a woman who traveled separately to Morocco from highly-infected Italy.
Meanwhile, the third case was confirmed on March 10. The patient is a French tourist who traveled to Marrakech and reported respiratory problems to a local hospital, where she tested positive for the novel coronavirus.