Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Morocco prohibits travel to/from eight cities beginning 2359 July 26 due to spike in COVID-19 activity. Other restrictions in effect.

  • Alert Begins: 26 Jul 2020 10:07 PM UTC
  • Alert Expires: 31 Aug 2020 11:59 PM UTC
  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Transport and business disruptions, heightened security

Authorities in Morocco have implemented a travel ban for the cities of Berrechid, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh, Meknes, Settat, Tangier, and Tetouan due to a recent surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases. The measure enters into effect as of 2359 July 26 and prohibits individuals from entering or exiting the cities, except for essential travel, such as seeking medical care or transporting goods. Public and private sector employees who must travel for work may acquire travel permits from local authorities. It is unclear how long the restriction will remain in place.

The move comes after Morocco had eased a series of COVID-19 restrictions on July 21. A number of businesses and services, including hotels, intercity transport, and restaurants have been allowed to reopen, albeit under certain operating capacity limitations. Authorities have also allowed gatherings of more than 20 people; however, weddings, funerals, movie theaters, and public swimming pools will remain banned until further notice. Domestic flights and public transport, including train and bus services resumed nationwide in late June.

Nevertheless, the government in Rabat regularly imposes restrictions on cities and regions that experience upticks in COVID-19 activity. Officials reimposed a series of measure in Tangier on July 14, suspending all public transport into and out of the city until further notice and requiring residents to obtain a special permit to enter or exit the municipality. In Safi in the Marrakesh-Safi Region, a directive was reinstituted requiring most businesses to close by 1800 and cafes and restaurants by 2000 daily. Areas with higher COVID-19 activity are also subject to quarantine orders. Authorities extended the health state of emergency through at least Aug. 10.

International passenger flights remain suspended until further notice; emergency and cargo flights can still operate normally. Sea travel to Spain, Gibraltar, and France remain suspended. The border with the Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, located on the north coast of Africa, is closed until further notice. All educational institutions are closed, and all political, social, and sporting events remain canceled.

For disease monitoring and tracking purposes, the Moroccan government has classified certain areas in the country as "Zone 1" or "Zone 2" regions based on the local level of COVID-19 activity. In Zone 1 regions, authorities have eased restrictions due to lower disease activity. Residents can leave their homes without special permits but must carry their national identity cards at all times. Certain commercial establishments, such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, beaches, and public baths, are allowed to reopen; all businesses must operate at 50 percent capacity and comply the country's social distancing guidelines. Zone 2 are those where authorities have eased only some restrictions; individuals may not travel outside their municipality of residence without a special permit.

Authorities could further ease restrictions or introduce additional preventative measures, depending on the evolution of disease activity in the coming days and weeks.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by Morocco are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all business appointments and travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

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