Morocco will remain in a state of emergency until June 10, Morocco’s head of government told Parliament.
Rabat – The Moroccan government has decided to extend the country’s state of emergency for three more weeks until June 10, announced Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani today.
The state of emergency, previously scheduled to end on May 20, was one of Morocco’s boldest measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic by restricting the movement of citizens and enforcing social distancing.
The extension aims to avoid the emergence of virus hotspots and confirms the country’s priority of protecting human lives at all cost, El Othmani said during a joint parliamentary session.
El Othmani said the “R0” reproduction rate must remain below one for more than two weeks, and must be less than 0.7 for maximum safety. The R0 represents the average number of people a single person with COVID-19 infects.
Currently, the R0 in Morocco is 0.9. Previously it was as high as 2.9.
The lockdown has helped curb the spread of the coronavirus by 80% and prevented 300,000 to 500,000 cases. Thanks to the lockdown, El Othmani said, Morocco prevented 9,000-15,000 deaths and an average of 600 new cases and 200 deaths daily.
Virus hotspots continue to appear within families and industrial production units, a situation the head of government said “is very worrying.” Health authorities identified 467 hotspots since the start of the outbreak, accounting for 65% of the total cases. Half of that 65% came from family gatherings, either celebrations or funerals.
Twenty-seven hotspots remain active.
With 99 new cases from just three hotspots on Sunday, El Othmani warned of the “seriousness” of the issue.
“We do not want the Eid to turn from happiness to sorrow,” he said.
“I understand how Moroccans are feeling, tired and anxious. We are all feeling the pain of not being able to pray in mosques during Ramadan.”
While assuring Parliament the situation is stable, El Othmani reiterated it is not safe yet and the situation is still worrying.
He acknowledged that some citizens are not respecting lockdown measures as strictly as they were at the start.
Ministers and experts have been discussing the situation for some time before coming to this decision.
“It was difficult to balance between socio-economic damage and health threats. Every solution has negatives,” El Othmani said.
Morocco announced a state of emergency on March 19 and enacted it one day later. At the time, the country had recorded 86 COVID-19 cases and had just started detecting the first patients who contracted the virus locally.
On April 18, two days before the original end date of the state of emergency, the Moroccan government decided to extend the nationwide lockdown for an additional month as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country exceeded 2,500.
Two days before the government announced the extension, on April 16, Morocco recorded 259 new COVID-19 cases in one day, the highest daily increase to this date.
The new lockdown extension comes less than a week before Eid al-Fitr, the religious holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Moroccans, and Muslims in general, usually celebrate the holiday by visiting their relatives and organizing family gatherings. However, such practices during the COVID-19 pandemic could create new hotspots and further spread the virus.
While the number of new COVID-19 recoveries has regularly exceeded the number of new cases over the past couple of weeks, decreasing the number of active cases, it remains to be seen how Morocco’s epidemiological situation will develop during the extended lockdown period and whether the country will finally start a “deconfinement” process.