Worried Morocco bans parties to stem holiday virus spread

RABAT, MOROCCO (AP) — Morocco has imposed a curfew, closed restaurants in major cities and banned public and private gatherings for three weeks — including the usually festive New Year’s Eve — to curb the spread of the virus. The curfew between 9pm to 6am went into effect on Wednesday night and is set to last until January 13.

All restaurants in the cities of Casablanca, Marrakech, Agadir and Tangier must close for that period, according to government orders this week. Elsewhere, restaurants, coffee shops, shops and supermarkets have to close at 8pm.

Morocco has reported more than 7,000 virus-related deaths and more than 420,000 cases, the highest in the region and second-highest official figures in Africa.

The new restrictions come as Morocco prepares to launch a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign using two different vaccines, one developed by China’s Sinopharm and the other by Britain’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca. The government had promised to start the vaccinations this month but the launch date for the campaign remains unknown.

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a bivouac where clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines are conducted, in Rabat, Morocco. PHOTO: AP