Lockdowns are disliked by both citizens and politicians, but can they be prevented?
Rabat – Politicians in Morocco appear reluctant to order a new COVID-19 lockdown, a reluctance that Europe’s leaders shared weeks ago. Decision makers are very much aware of the well-documented economic impacts of a national or even regional confinement directive. “Never again,” vowed many politicians and citizens on the European continent after its first wave came under control.
Over the following months, fear of COVID-19 waned as Europeans set off on their cherished summer vacations. Citizens started resisting simple COVID-19 measures such as social distancing and the wearing of face masks. Large scale protests emerged where angry demonstrators decried a perceived attack on their freedom.
Amid all this speculation, distrust, and resistance, the virus again spread in an uncontrolled fashion.
Young people in particular became the source of the growing outbreak as a hodgepodge of local and national small-scale initiatives aimed at bringing down the caseload. The wariness of a new economically-damaging lockdown drove policy making in Europe, as it does in Morocco today.
Europe’s leaders, from France’s Emmannuel Macron to Germany’s Angela Merkel, tried a variety of localized and streamlined measures such as curfews, restrictions on hospitality, and encouraging better public adherence.
After two months of failed attempts, and amid a new devastating wave of infections, Europeans were once again forced to lock down their cities and towns. Within weeks Europe has overtaken the US in daily infections per capita, and harsh measures have once again become a reality.
Morocco faces the same lockdown predicament as Europe. The country’s economy can ill afford another national confinement order with its painful consequences. Just as last time, a new lockdown in Morocco would lead to layoffs, small business closures, and a worsening of the nation’s mental health, just as it is doing in Europe.
With its neighbors across the Mediterranean forced into lockdown the question remains as to whether Morocco faces a similar fate. The answer likely depends on whether Moroccans strengthen their personal adherence to measures, or continue to let worries wane as Europeans did.
On August 20, King Mohammed VI warned of such a need arising in Morocco. The monarch dedicated the entirety of his speech, marking the 67th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, to addressing the nation’s COVID-19 situation.
“The deterioration of the health situation today is unfortunate and does not leave much room for optimism,” the King said ominously. “Whoever tells you otherwise, dear citizens, is simply lying to you,” he added.
The King spoke of a possible situation that would “inevitably” warrant drastic new measures. “If figures continue to increase, the COVID-19 Scientific Committee may recommend another lockdown, perhaps with even tighter restrictions,” he said.
The calculation for Morocco is the same as in Europe. Once cases rise exponentially and start to overwhelm hospitals, many innocent people could die needlessly. With following preventive measures as the main way to avoid such a political directive, citizens still control whether another period of confinement could indeed become “inevitable.”
With an unfortunate record-breaking 4,495 new infections recorded on November 3 alone, Morocco stands at a crossroads, just as Europe did last month when politicians still strenuously resisted a lockdown.
“None of us, officials or citizens, wish to return to total lockdown,” Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said on Tuesday. While the national epidemic has not yet spiralled out of control, the situation is “worrying,” according to El Othmani.
As things stand, the best way to avoid a confinement order in Morocco is to outperform Europe in adherence to measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. A few months of postponed family visits, uncomfortable masks, and avoiding handshakes and physical contact can drastically reduce the caseload, save lives, and avoid a new lockdown.