The number of novel coronavirus cases is dramatically increasing and staying home is highly “mandatory and obligatory” to avoid further infections, a Moroccan doctor has said.
Rabat – At the time of writing, 225 cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been recorded in Morocco, a country that has spared no effort in deploying human and logistical means to limit the spread of the pandemic.
Medical staff, military and security personnel, and civilians have shown strong commitment and solidarity as part of a nationwide campaign to limit further proliferation.
Celebrities and public figures have been filming videos to sensitize Moroccans and urge them to limit their movements to prevent the virus from spreading.
However, since Morocco entered a state of emergency on March 20 and placed its citizens and residents under lockdown, cases have more than doubled, jumping from 79 to 225 in less than a week. While most cases at the start of the outbreak originated abroad, 49% of the country’s current cases are local.
The Moroccan government has taken drastic measures to secure the population against the virus from the top-down. But in order for the country to effectively tackle the epidemic, ordinary Moroccans must heed the instructions of medical experts and health authorities.
Morocco acts wisely
Dr. OumKaltoum Harati, a health professional at the Faculty of Medicine at Montreal University, Canada, shared her insight on COVID-19 containment, prevention, and treatment with Morocco World News (MWN).
Harati acknowledged that the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing dramatically around the world, but Morocco has emerged as a leader in enacting preventive measures.
“The situation is unfortunate and really worrying, this is why I think that staying at home and taking the necessary precautions is highly mandatory and obligatory,” she said.
Harati is certain that the Moroccan government “acted wisely and quickly by enforcing and implementing social distancing at all levels of activities,” adding that she is delighted to see all the steps taken.
“I really respect all Moroccans who are respecting the rules and become aware of the situation and staying at home,” Harati told MWN.
Morocco’s government imposed a state of emergency and nation-wide lockdown on March 20 to limit movement across the country. Only people with exceptional movement permits can go out for work, groceries, or in the event of an emergency.
“This is a major step in order to limit the transmission of COVID- 19 and slow the progression of this pandemic as much as possible,” Harti remarked on the lockdown.
While some groups throughout the country have defied the lockdown and rallied in the streets, videos of civilians showering police and military personnel with flowers have gone viral on social media, along with footage of Moroccan police and civilians singing the national anthem in harmony.
The acts of solidarity come in tribute to all human resources deployed to limit the proliferation of the coronavirus and in rejection of those who intentionally violate the country’s preventive measures.
Not enough equipment in case of critical phase
When Morocco had recorded only eight coronavirus cases in the first weeks of the outbreak, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said the country’s hospitals have around 250 beds to accommodate potential COVID-19 patients.
The Ministry of Health later added that 44 hospitals are ready to tackle cases of the epidemic.
Moroccan media have also reported that a shipment of medical equipment has arrived from China to help medical personnel respond to the situation.
Harati underlined that Morocco is mobilized with what is necessary at present, “But unfortunately, [the equipment] is not enough if the number of patients increases and becomes uncontrollable, since we are not sure what would be the progression of this outbreak,” she stressed.
She suggested that the Health Ministry take further measures to work on logistics to afford necessary materials to hospitals and increase the number of beds and respiratory ventilators.
“But I will repeat it again, in order to flatten the curve of the disease, staying home and being patient is highly obligatory,” she warned.
Quarantine is ideal
Harati asserted that social distancing and isolation are the most effective measures in curbing the coronavirus.
“Many studies have shown that the incubation period falls within the range of 2–14 days, with 95% confidence,” Harati maintained.
“Having said that, I think that it is really prudent not to dismiss the possibility of incubation periods up to 14 days. And I think that the isolation period might be longer than that in order to decrease person-to-person transmission.”
Harati added that many studies have shown that people might be infected with COVID-19 with little to no symptoms, and that symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.
The uncertainty surrounding the virus is what makes self-isolation and social distancing so important, as infected individuals can easily—and unknowingly—transmit the disease to others.
Anti-malaria medicine chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine might be an effective medicine for the virus.
Harati remarked that Morocco’s Ministry of Health has started allowing hospitals to use chloroquine as potential treatments for coronavirus patients.
Under clinical trials around the world, many health experts wonder if hydroxychloroquine will prove to be an effective treatment to cure COVID-19 infections.
“Chloroquine requires a lot of close monitoring compared to hydroxychloroquine. I suggest that prospective scientific research be done in Morocco to prove whether the treatment is effective and follow the side effects to make conclusions,” she asserted.
In addition to treatment testing, the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine has also kicked off around the world.
“About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create such a vaccine. However, it is also important to understand that clinical trials, an important precursor to regulatory approval, usually take time, and yes, while there is a push to do things faster, it’s also important not to take a dangerous shortcut,” Harati said.
Coronavirus and mental health
While it is necessary to respect preventive measures to avoid the spread of the virus, it is also essential to take care of mental health during isolation.
Dr. Nada Azzouzi, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, explained to MWN that a healthy mental state is necessary during lockdown.
Azzouzi said that the first step should start with individual certainty that quarantine and social distancing is the best for one’s health and safety as well as that of their loved ones.
“Isolation is not the problem, it’s how we see and perceive it,” she insisted, maintaining that self-isolation should not completely deprive people of socializing.
“People should keep in contact with their families and friends. This will maintain mental health and improve adaptation to the situation,” Azzouzi said.
The psychologist added that people should work on a busy schedule, practice meditation to soothe stress, and only check the news around the coronavirus outbreak once a day to avoid panic.
“Learn something new and have goals, such as learning a new language or taking classes.”
Health experts in Morocco still consider the coronavirus outbreak in Morocco in its first phase, as most of the patients became infected abroad—but the gap between foreign and local cases shrinks by the day. Morocco will consider itself in the second phase of the outbreak when the number of cases exceeds 500, and as of March 24, the country is nearly halfway there.
It remains to be seen whether the nationwide lockdown will stem the spread of the virus, and if current patients will improve with the introduction of chloroquine and its derivatives.