The sudden decision shocked most Moroccans, even those who have not left their houses for a brief holiday.
Rabat – On Sunday evening, thousands of Moroccans took to highways, looking for a way to reach their homes after Morocco’s government decided to suspend all travel to and from eight major cities.
The cities concerned are Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat, and Marrakech.
The government announced the news on July 26 at around 8 p.m. and the decision came into effect at midnight. Those who were far from home at the time of the announcement had only four hours to get back.
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Highways were not the only spaces to suffer congestion—train and bus stations were also packed with people. Pictures circulating online show frantic crowds of people unable to respect social distancing recommendations. Others show heavy traffic, accidents, and blocked roads.
The frustration comes less than a week before Eid Al Adha, a religious holiday that most Moroccans prefer to spend with their relatives. With Morocco’s decision to suspend travel to several major cities, however, this is impossible for many families.
Social media platforms are the only space for Moroccans to condemn the government’s quick decision and the chaos that has since ensued.
Most of the comments criticizing the decision described it as “improvisation” and “irresponsible,” one that failed to take into account the situation of travelers.
He said that “the increase in the number of cases in the past few days, including on Saturday and Sunday, was the reason behind the decision” to suspend travel between eight of Morocco’s major cities.
The decision seeks to contain the spread of the virus between and within these cities, El Othmani continued.
He also echoed the statement of the ministries of health and the interior, stressing that some Moroccans do not respect the preventive measures against the spread of the virus.
Dashed dreams of domestic tourism
The travel suspension comes just days after El Othmani encouraged Moroccans to support the country’s economy by engaging in domestic tourism. He warned, however, that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, asking people to take all of the preventive measures seriously.
Shortly after advocating for domestic tourism, El Othmani warned against unessential travel. With Eid Al Adha celebrations just around the corner, the head of government called on Moroccans to not travel unless it is necessary, so as to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb made similar statements. He warned on Saturday that reimposing a total lockdown remains a possible option to contain the spread of COVID-19 if Moroccans continue to display a lack of respect for preventive measures.
He also said he expects the number of COVID-19 cases to increase during Eid Al Adha. This concern influenced Morocco’s decision to suspend travel to the eight major cities, which are already leading the country in terms of COVID-19 cases.
Morocco’s current COVID-19 situation
In the last few days, Morocco has recorded a huge number of new COVID-19 cases. The health ministry reported 811 new cases on July 25 and 633 on July 26.
The number of deaths has also increased due to the rise of critical cases in emergency rooms.
Total cases stood at 20,278 as of Sunday evening. Recoveries have reached 16,438 while 313 patients have died.
The Casablanca-Settat region has the highest number of confirmed cases in the country (5,067), followed by Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima (4,731), Marrakech-Safi (3,220), Fez-Meknes (2,658), and Rabat-Sale-Kenitra (2,210).