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Morocco closes eight cities, chaos on the roads

Faced with the risk of the spread of the coronavirus, the Moroccan authorities took severe travel restrictions on Sunday evening affecting eight cities, including Marrakech and Tangier, caused scenes of chaos.

Giant traffic jams on roads and stations taken by storm: the lightning decision of the Moroccan authorities to introduce severe travel restrictions on Sunday evening affecting eight cities, including Marrakech and Tangier, faced with the risk of the spread of the coronavirus, caused scenes of chaos.

The announcement of these travel restrictions via a joint statement from the Ministries of the Interior and of Health five hours before taking effect on Sunday at midnight even caused several road accidents. The mountain road leading from Marrakech to Ouarzazate was still blocked Monday morning due to the influx of cars.

The last-minute measures also sparked a flood of disappointment on social media. “I understand that everyone is angry but we have no choice: the epidemiological situation in Morocco is worrying with an increase in the number of deaths and serious cases,” Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said on Monday.

The country “recorded in a week more cases of contamination than in four months,” he said during a press briefing. The last few days have been marked by a record number of contaminations: 811 Saturday and 633 Sunday. A total of 20,887 cases have been officially registered, including 316 deaths.

A “relaxation” in the wearing of the mask, compulsory in Morocco

The closure “until further notice” of the eight cities – which bring together more than half of the country’s population – was decided due to the “considerable increase” in cases of contamination a few days before Eid Al Adha, the great Muslim feast of sacrifice, scheduled for Friday and traditionally marked by family reunions.

Only those holding special permits can enter and leave the cities concerned: the economic capital Casablanca, the tourist capital Marrakech, the port metropolis of Tangier – second economic hub of the kingdom – but also Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Berrechid and Settat.

The Moroccan authorities announced in mid-July a further easing of the containment measures adopted in March, with provisions to encourage domestic tourism and facilitate travel during Eid Al Adha. The new restrictions were taken “with regard to the non-compliance by the majority of citizens with preventive measures like social distancing, wearing a mask”, according to the official statement.

The Interior Ministry warned on Saturday that the authorities “do not hesitate to apply the sanctions provided for by law”, pointing to a “relaxation” in the wearing of a mask, compulsory in Morocco. The penalties go up to three months in prison and / or up to a fine of 300 dirhams.

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