The crackdown came after the Moroccan government urged local authorities to enforce the wearing of face masks in public.
The crackdown took place between Saturday and Sunday, August 8-9, local authorities announced in a statement on Monday.
Photos widely shared on social media show security officers arresting many who seem to be within this group of suspects.
Taroudant, located 80 kilometers east of Agadir, has a population of approximately 80,000, according to the 2014 national census. The number of people referred to prosecution over the weekend represents nearly 1% of the city’s inhabitants.
While lockdown measures ease in Taroudant and the Souss-Massa region, wearing face masks in public remains compulsory across Morocco.
Local authorities in Taroudant launched a campaign to enforce the wearing of face masks that mainly targeted restaurants and cafes.
The campaign led to the closure of two cafes for not respecting safety requirements, the statement said.
Authorities pledge to continue efforts in raising awareness about the importance of wearing face masks in public. They will also sustain their efforts in enforcing preventive measures, the document added.
The statement also warned offenders that “strict sanctions” will await them.
Morocco’s efforts to enforce wearing face masks
The Souss-Massa region is the third-least affected region in Morocco, with less than 200 COVID-19 cases since the start of the domestic outbreak. The low figures, however, have led many citizens to exclude the possibility of a local outbreak.
The weekend’s strict enforcement campaign came after a noticeable relaxation in respecting preventive measures. It also came after Morocco’s government approved a bill enforcing the wearing of face masks in public.
The bill simplifies the punishment of those not wearing face masks. It provides for a fixed fine of MAD 300 ($32) to be paid immediately at the time of the infraction. The immediate fine allows offenders to avoid going to court, simplifying the legal and administrative procedure.
If the offenders are unable to or refuse to pay the fine, they have to appear in court within the following 24 hours.
After a trial, offenders risk spending one to three months in prison, paying a fine of MAD 300 to MAD 1,300 ($32-$140), or both.