Morocco faces down COVID-19 spread with tough rules

RABAT, MOROCCO (AP) – With air and sea borders closed for months and eight cities barring people from entering or leaving, Morocco has been pulling out the stops to stanch the spread of coronavirus.

Still, the kingdom on the Atlantic coast, a magnet for tourists in better times, has registered more than 110,000 positive cases since March and has a death toll of 2,041 – the highest among its North African neighbours.

Morocco first decreed lockdown measures on March 20, but has been gradually easing restrictions. A recent upsurge in infections, however, has forced targetted measures.

Marrakech, a major tourist destination, is at a standstill, while police checks are part of the scenery in hard-hit Casablanca, the country’s economic powerhouse. Police are out in the markets, streets, drug-dealers’ haunts and closed-off beaches, with military vehicles occasionally rolling by. They are a no-nonsense signal for citizens to respect the country’s strict orders to contain the virus.

In the northern city of Tangiers, military vehicles were deployed last month to help enforce measures there. Movement between the city and others was stopped, as it was in Casablanca, barring exceptional authorisations.

In Casablanca, tough measures to keep people from leaving town are in place. Police at blockades focus on taxis, buses, freight trucks and private ambulances, vehicles known to be used by those trying to sneak out of town, said Al Fida police district Commander Karim El Idrani.

Moroccan police officers remind sellers to respect the security measures such as distancing and wearing a mask in a market of Casablanca, Morocco. PHOTO: AP