Videos circulating online show passengers frustrated in the Rabat train station after a temporary closure.
Rabat – Morocco’s authorities are reinforcing monitoring of “special movement permits” at Moroccan train stations as part of the preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The National Railway Office (ONCF) issued a press release to announce that passengers arriving in or coming from closed cities should have special movement permits to be allowed to leave train stations.
The press release came after a video that went viral online documented backlash, showing passengers stuck inside the Rabat train station without a way to leave the platform.
The station was closed over the weekend, and did not reopen until this evening, August 3. ONCF reassured that the Rabat train station will now remain open for passengers.
Morocco closed eight cities last month, including Casablanca, Marrakech, Berrechid, Settat, Fez, Meknes, Tetouan and Tangier.
The decision came after the notable increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across Morocco, especially in the aforementioned regions.
The Rabat train station’s temporary closure
Earlier today, a source from ONCF told Morocco World News that the Rabat train station had been closed since Thursday.
The controversy hit social networks today, August 3, as more passengers passed through the station than over the weekend.
The source said the decision was due to the identification of a COVID-19 hotspot near the location.
Activities in the Rabat train station were suspended, but trains were allowed to make stopovers in Rabat to not confuse the company’s schedule.
“Passengers who stop in Rabat have to change the line to reach their destination as the station is closed and nobody can leave or access it,” the source said of the measures during the station’s closure, no longer in effect.
The ONCF source clarified that when the station was closed, the office put up posters to advise passengers of the situation.
The same source said passengers were not allowed to leave the train even if the fleet made a stopover, clarifying that the station was closed since Thursday last week.
“The activities in the station [were] low due to Eid Al Adha and therefore people have not noticed.”
ONCF’s Facebook page did not have a post about its decision to close the station, which sparked controversy and an uproar among passengers.
Videos circulating online show passengers inside the station angry after deboarding their trains and trying to enter the station.
After reopening the station, ONCF did post on Facebook that the station is “still open.”
Eid Al Adha and the travel ban
Prior to Eid Al Adha, train stations’ activities tend to increase significantly as thousands of families prefer to travel to spend the feast with their families.
This year the situation was unprecedented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision to temporarily close the Rabat train station came after the Moroccan government’s action to suspend travel to and from eight major Moroccan cities, including Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakech, Berrechid, Settat, Fez, Tetouan, and Meknes.
The situation caused an uproar among Moroccans, especially holidaymakers who found themselves stuck away from their cities of residence.
Authorities only allow Moroccans with special movement permits to enter or exit the eight cities. The permits must be signed by local authorities to justify the necessity to move to or from the closed cities.
The ONCF source said authorities mobilized security services to monitor the situation, asking passengers coming from closed cities to present their special movement permits upon their arrival or departure.