Moroccan citizens and the authorities are experiencing fatigue, and lifting some restrictions next month will be inevitable.
Rabat – With the latest extension, Morocco’s lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus is set to last for 82 days. Yet there is an increasing defiance of social distancing, more traffic, and local authorities are enforcing the state of emergency less stringently.
This reality and daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases have sparked a debate on social media about whether Morocco can aim for “herd immunity” instead of the harsh curfew measures which are bringing the national economy to its knees.
Reda Dalil, the editor of the Telquel newspaper, argues collective immunity is the only strategy to face the virus when even advanced countries are on the precipice of defeat against this pandemic. These calls should be examined carefully before the public latches onto them.
Starting March 20 and with 86 cases, Morocco imposed an early lockdown to save lives. After extending the lockdown for a second time, it is improbable the government will resort to a herd immunity strategy to fight the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. The human cost would be devastating, risky, and damaging for the public health system.
Populations achieve herd immunity when between 70% and 95% of the people develop immunity. It can be natural after contracting a virus or come from large-scale vaccination. It might seem like a genius idea to keep people and the economy moving.
While no vaccine for the coronavirus is available at the moment, only a natural infection creates antibodies against the virus. But the bad news is that contracting the virus can be deadly; 2.8% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Morocco have died. The percentage could increase if the health system is overburdened with thousands of daily cases in need of intensive care.
COVID-19 is more contagious and life-threatening symptoms than the flu. Seasonal flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. As a result, if 70% of Moroccans contract the virus, the death toll would be hundreds of thousands of lives.
Moreover, the virus is new, and there is no evidence that contracting the virus or having antibodies guarantees lasting immunity. The WHO has warned against issuing “immunity passports” of “risk-free certificates” because there is no proof recovered patients are protected against a second infection.
The British government initially opted for herd immunity and protecting people over 70. Then, after the numbers of cases and deaths soared, Downing Street dropped the method in favor of a general “stay at home” slogan.
And what about Sweden? It is the best example of a “go-it-alone” approach to tackle the pandemic without imposing draconian measures. Maybe there is a lot of misunderstanding about the “Swedish model.” Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, said plainly that Sweden’s strategy was “not a herd immunity strategy.”
Swedes have a high tendency to follow institutional health guidelines, like social distancing avoiding, unnecessary travel, and staying at home after experiencing symptoms. The proof is that even with fewer travel restrictions, people avoid travelling and the tourism industry in Sweden is suffering as anywhere in the world. Still, authorities are closely monitoring the epidemic situation, and stricter guidelines may be considered in the future.
To be clear, strict lockdown is anything but sustainable for the national economy and social stability. Moroccan citizens and the authorities are experiencing fatigue, and lifting some restrictions next month will be inevitable. So far, striking a balance between the well-being of the population and restarting the economy is the crucial challenge for any government, and it is not as simple as betting on herd immunity.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.