Will the British COVID-19 strain pose an increasing threat to Morocco as well?
Rabat – Europe is facing a new COVID-19 crisis as it appears a third wave of infections has hit the continent, driven by infections of the UK variant.
Most major countries in Europe are marked in dark blue on the WHO’s COVID-19 map, indicating the latest increase in daily cases. Health officials in Germany reported 17,051 new cases over the past 24 hours, while France’s 29,575 new cases have led to a new total lockdown.
Cases and hospitalizations are up in many European countries, with German experts warning that the British COVID-19 mutation poses a new threat. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned German parliament that the UK-strain “is proven to be more dangerous in children and young people so we need to put the protection of schools more front and center than with the original virus.”
“We urgently need to stop and reverse the third wave of the pandemic,” Merkel warned as her government announced new plans to stop the spread of COVID-19 amid the upcoming Easter holiday on April 4.
While infection rates have risen in some of Europe’s largest countries, infection rates in the UK are slowly decreasing. The UK has vaccinated more citizens than any other European country, with only small nations like Malta and Serbia having vaccinated more than a third of the population.
In response, the EU has announced it will limit its vaccine exports for the next six weeks. EU countries are desperately looking for a political “win” by outperforming others on vaccination rates, leading to a decrease of available vaccines for the rest of the world, and direct conflicts with vaccine manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the situation as a “crisis” and stated that “we have to make sure that Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Hans Kluge, the head of Europe’s WHO Office, called the slow rate of vaccination “unacceptable” on Twitter. He called for the “ramping up manufacturing, reducing barriers to administering COVID19 vaccines, and using every single vial we have in stock, now.”
Morocco spill-over effect
For Morocco, the situation in Europe presents a difficult situation. On one hand the north African country faces a possible economic crisis that is likely to be worse for tourism-dependent countries, according to the IMF. On the other hand, it faces the threat that the British COVID-19 variant could become a factor leading to another wave of infections.
With the religious holiday of Ramadan only weeks away, Moroccan authorities introduced a three-day lockdown in Dakhla after 40 cases of the British strain were detected on Monday.
Meanwhile, national authorities continue to extend the national nighttime curfew by another two weeks ahead of the month-long Ramadan festival of fasting and feasting that starts mid-April.
Morocco’s Head of Government Saad-Eddine El Othmani on Saturday, March 27, warned of a possible third wave of COVID-19 in Morocco, raising fear Europe’s third wave could spill into the Maghreb.
While official numbers on Morocco’s COVID-19 epidemic continue to report daily new cases in the hundreds, Morocco’s leaders appear apprehensive to celebrate any apparent progress.
Similar to Europe, Morocco’s public health authorities appear to count on its national vaccination campaign to stop a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Yet, Morocco is dependent on foreign vaccine suppliers that mean the country is “at the mercy” of others, according to Dr Mustapha Ennaji who is part of the governing body overseeing the vaccination campaign.