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Coronavirus : Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, three reassuring but different situations

On social media and in songs, we like to call it the United Maghreb. Although it is not the case when it comes to politics, the current health crisis has shown that three Maghreb countries took similar paths, with only a few differences, when dealing with the coronavirus.

DR
Estimated read time: 3'

The Maghreb region has been relatively less affected by the current health crisis, especially when compared to European countries, such as Spain, France and Italy. These three countries are geographically close to the Maghreb and house a large part of its diaspora : Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians.

When the virus first appeared in these three countries, their authorities took precautionary measures rather early, closing borders, imposing strict lockdown measures as well as mandatory facemasks in public. These proactive measures, motivated by the vulnerability of the healthcare system in these three countries, have so far prevented a similar scenario to the one witnessed in France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, between others.

The generally reassuring situation in the Maghreb was a result of paths that were somewhat similar for a long time before taking different turns.

Algeria : The rollercoaster

With more than 5,700 confirmed coronavirus cases and around 500 deaths, Algeria is the country whose situation is the most worrying in the Maghreb region. Indeed, the number of daily new cases continues to rise without reaching a peak.

The low number of tests performed explains the decrease in daily cases in April. With only 6,500 coronavirus tests, it seems that only the cases with severe symptoms were being counted.

But in Algeria, the containment measures were very random. The government’s hesitation has helped keep a large portion of the population in a state of mistrust, as the country had just left the Hirak behind.

After a rather uneventful month of April, the number of cases continued to grow significantly throughout the end of the month and early May.

One reassuring thing is that despite the growing number of confirmed cases, the total number of fatalities has slowed down. The Algerian Minister of Health, Abderahmane Benbouzid, recently explained that this trend is to be attributed to the use of the chloroquine-based therapeutic protocol

Morocco at a crossroads

Morocco has just reached 6,000 Covid-19 cases. After registering a peak around mid-April, the end of the same month witnessed a decline. But the situation became worrying by May, when the number of daily confirmed cases started growing again.

While part of the population shifts the blame on those who do not respect social distancing measures, health authorities indicate that most of the new confirmed cases are those who were in close contact with previously confirmed cases.  

Indeed, for a few weeks, people who were deemed asymptomatic and were in close contact with previously confirmed cases have tested positive and are hence being counted in the total number of confirmed cases.

Recoveries, however, have been on the rise, stabilizing the curve of active cases. This, however, may not last for too long, especially with the loosening of confinement measures and the appearance of new hotspots.

The silver lining is that the fatality curve is getting closer to 0 after the peak registered during the first fortnight in April. These encouraging results can be explained by a better knowledge of the disease, the use of dual therapy hydroxychloroquine and azytromicine, but also early and systematic screening.

Tunisia, a glimpse of hope

With just over 1,000 positive cases and 45 deaths, among its Maghreb peers, Tunisia is the least affected country by the pandemic. After a peak at the end of March, a decline followed by a second small peak in mid-April, the country is close to the end to the health crisis with a few scattered daily cases.

The curve of active cases describes this reassuring trend, with a peak in mid-April and a decline which accelerated in early May. The mortality rate is close to that of Morocco. The significant rate of recoveries coupled with the low number of new cases have made it possible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

As for its Maghreb neighbors, Tunisia has resorted to a treatment based on chloroquine. However, these encouraging results did not lead to early deconfinement on May 24, as was previously scheduled. 

On May 8, the Tunisian Minister of Health, Abdellatif Mekki, called on his compatriots not to drop the precautionary and social distancing measures which helped to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

End of lockdown, tests and repatriation

With a similar tone, the Health Minister of Morocco insisted that the end of the lockdown would be possible only if the infection rate (R0) is below 1 for more than two weeks.

Morocco is expected to end the state of health emergency and the lockdown measures on May 20, but that scenario is unlikely. Mohamed Lyoubi, the head of epidemiology department, referred to a gradual end of the containment. The same debate is underway in Algeria, depending in particular on the mortality rate and the number of new infections.

But whatever the dates of progressive or national deconfinement are, the three countries will have to reinforce the control of sanitary measures, to avoid a massive resurgence of the disease. The crucial element will remain the generalization of tests. 

Algeria today pays for the low number of tests in April (average of 148 tests per million inhabitants). Morocco, after a slow start, is catching up (average of 1,786/1 M) on Tunisia, which has always practiced widespread screenings (average of 2,479/1 M). The measure was probably one of the reasons behind the success of the epidemic control in the country.

If the Achilles heel of Algeria lies in testing, Morocco’s stems from its refusal to repatriate its citizens stranded abroad, while Algeria and Tunisia have operated special flights for their nationals. At the end of the day, there is not much lacking to speak of a United Maghreb, just like the reassuring epidemiological situation for the three Maghreb countries.

Coronavirus cases
590 339 339
Confirmed Covid-19 cases
6 435 645
total deaths
570 294 966
total recovered
67.4%
de la population mondiale vaccinée
 
Cases
Deaths
USA
92 927 104
1 037 021
India
44 268 381
527 069
France
34 406 092
154 104
Brazil
34 148 131
681 253
Germany
31 535 340
145 698
United Kingdom
23 634 821
186 798
Italy
21 499 531
174 060
Korea, South
21 418 036
25 673
Russia
18 607 284
375 360
Turkey
16 295 817
99 678
Japan
15 656 681
35 198
Spain
13 294 139
111 667
Vietnam
11 365 784
43 098
Australia
9 810 496
12 886
Argentina
9 633 732
129 566
Netherlands
8 471 927
23 175
Iran
7 475 173
142 944
Mexico
6 927 636
328 732
Colombia
6 286 392
141 287
Indonesia
6 282 774
157 226
Poland
6 119 257
116 773
Portugal
5 376 433
24 722
Ukraine
5 305 063
116 508
Taiwan*
4 888 840
9 435
Austria
4 861 952
20 485
Malaysia
4 735 547
36 085
Thailand
4 622 088
31 858
Israel
4 614 404
11 501
Greece
4 577 675
31 722
Belgium
4 453 483
32 364
Chile
4 380 148
59 989
Canada
4 141 368
43 440
Peru
4 027 614
214 956
Czechia
4 012 244
40 647
South Africa
4 008 164
101 982
Switzerland
3 994 397
13 939
Philippines
3 831 941
61 036
Denmark
3 298 716
6 841
Romania
3 157 372
66 348
Slovakia
2 580 748
20 236
Sweden
2 551 996
19 528
Iraq
2 451 178
25 326
China
2 339 195
14 797
Serbia
2 206 806
16 449
Bangladesh
2 008 870
29 313
Hungary
2 005 399
46 966
Singapore
1 794 069
1 559
Jordanie
1 720 778
14 090
Georgia
1 710 749
16 877
New Zealand
1 697 470
1 751
Ireland
1 650 791
7 743
Pakistan
1 563 347
30 529
Kazakhstan
1 466 760
19 030
Norway
1 458 092
3 834
Morocco
1 263 453
16 269
Finland
1 238 998
5 350
Bulgaria
1 226 419
37 488
Croatia
1 200 742
16 496
Lithuania
1 200 477
9 230
Lebanon
1 197 041
10 576
Tunisia
1 139 241
29 153
Cuba
1 109 433
8 529
Slovenia
1 103 466
6 747
Bolivia
1 081 206
22 129
Guatemala
1 072 590
19 230
Costa Rica
1 057 695
8 780
United Arab Emirates
1 004 751
2 339
Belarus
994 037
7 118
Nepal
993 032
11 988
Ecuador
975 234
35 811
Uruguay
973 420
7 423
Mongolia
966 423
2 123
Panama
960 300
8 434
Latvia
881 020
5 909
Saudi Arabia
811 958
9 269
Azerbaijan
805 103
9 773
Paraguay
712 907
19 357
West Bank and Gaza
697 447
5 691
Sri Lanka
668 012
16 621
Bahrain
666 939
1 513
Kuwait
656 393
2 562
Dominican Republic
634 866
4 384
Burma
614 389
19 435
Estonia
593 571
2 634
Cyprus
571 994
1 149
Moldova
551 862
11 662
Venezuela
540 222
5 778
Egypt
515 645
24 781
Libya
505 956
6 434
Ethiopia
492 753
7 571
Honduras
447 365
10 954
Armenia
428 648
8 637
Qatar
419 370
681
Oman
397 231
4 628
Bosnia and Herzegovina
390 650
15 942
Kenya
337 950
5 673
North Macedonia
334 562
9 414
Zambia
331 925
4 016
Botswana
325 824
2 774
Albania
321 804
3 571
Luxembourg
284 931
1 119
Montenegro
269 719
2 759
Algeria
269 141
6 878
Kosovo
266 686
3 184
Nigeria
262 520
3 147
Zimbabwe
256 539
5 588
Mauritius
248 720
1 019
Uzbekistan
243 537
1 637
Mozambique
229 887
2 219
Brunei Darussalam
215 283
225
Laos
212 356
757
Kyrgyzstan
204 671
2 991
Iceland
203 518
179
El Salvador
190 818
4 217
Afghanistan
189 045
7 758
Maldives
184 591
307
Trinidad and Tobago
175 098
4 079
Uganda
169 396
3 628
Namibia
169 253
4 073
Ghana
168 350
1 458
Jamaica
148 048
3 221
Cambodia
137 236
3 056
Rwanda
132 357
1 466
Cameroon
120 967
1 933
Malta
113 534
797
Angola
102 636
1 917
Barbados
97 638
516
Congo (Kinshasa)
92 456
1 391
Senegal
87 752
1 968
Malawi
87 711
2 673
Cote d'Ivoire
86 151
815
Suriname
80 988
1 380
Eswatini
73 327
1 419
Guyana
70 457
1 275
Fiji
67 925
875
Belize
67 630
680
Madagascar
66 599
1 410
Sudan
63 128
4 960
Mauritania
62 708
992
Cabo Verde
62 253
410
Bhutan
60 663
21
Syria
56 700
3 157
Gabon
48 592
306
Burundi
48 002
38
Andorra
45 899
154
Seychelles
45 692
168
Papua New Guinea
44 820
663
Togo
38 285
281
Tanzania
38 205
841
Guinea-Bissau
37 470
447
Bahamas
36 905
823
Lesotho
34 206
704
Haiti
32 703
838
Mali
31 245
739
Saint Lucia
28 341
388
Benin
27 316
163
Somalia
27 020
1 361
Congo (Brazzaville)
24 837
386
Timor-Leste
23 074
135
Solomon Islands
21 544
153
Burkina Faso
21 128
387
San Marino
20 130
118
Liechtenstein
18 907
86
Grenada
18 895
234
South Sudan
17 823
138
Tajikistan
17 786
125
Equatorial Guinea
16 892
183
Djibouti
15 690
189
Samoa
15 405
29
Nicaragua
14 872
244
Dominican Republic
14 852
68
Central African Republic
14 803
113
Monaco
14 277
61
Tonga
13 405
12
Gambia
12 238
368
Yemen
11 903
2 152
Vanuatu
11 746
14
Eritrea
10 136
103
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
9 404
115
Niger
9 132
311
Antigua and Barbuda
8 820
144
Guinea-Bissau
8 452
174
Comoros
8 351
161
Sierra Leone
7 741
126
Liberia
7 578
294
Chad
7 444
193
Micronesia
7 139
19
Saint Kitts and Nevis
6 492
46
Sao Tome and Principe
6 120
76
Palau
5 308
6
Kiribati
3 430
13
Marshall Islands
1 250
2
Summer Olympics 2020
865
0
Diamond Princess
712
13
Winter Olympics 2022
535
0
Holy See
29
0
Antarctica
11
0
MS Zaandam
9
2
Korea, North
1
6
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