The epidemiological situation in Morocco «is worrying», Health Minister says

The day after the announced suspension of travel to and from eight Moroccan cities, due to the new coronavirus, the Minister of Health warned against the increasing numbers of infections in some regions, which requires immediate and firm decisions.

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Health Minister Khalid Aït Taleb. / DR

One day after imposing a travel ban on eight Moroccan cities, Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb said that the epidemiological situation in the country is «worrisome». During a press conference held Monday, the Minister stressed that the number of active cases in critical condition is increasing in some provinces, as well as the number of fatalities. There are also more and more asymptomatic patients, he added.

The Minister explained that the current numbers require urgent measures. «As we have undertaken anticipatory measures, at the start of the pandemic (...) we cannot let all these efforts prove to be in vain», declared Khalid Aït Taleb, during this meeting in which he said he «understands the confusion and the anger of citizens, faced with sudden and immediate decision-making».

«I must say that this virus doesn’t have a deadline, so to face it and contain it, we cannot give ourselves deadlines», he added, referring to the travel ban imposed last night.

Targeted measures to avoid total re-containment

«Eid occurred at a time when the epidemiological situation was stable», but «the speed at which the the virus is spreading is unpredictable and it has therefore been essential to adapt health measures to this sudden development», he said.

Quoting numbers and figures, the Minister indicated that in some cities or provinces, numbers were on the rise : «In Tangier, the R0 reached 1.9. In Fez, it is 1.7. In Berrechid, it is 2.35». The Casablanca-Settat region, which recorded 2,900 new coronavirus cases, between March 2 and June 14, identified 2,162 additional infections, «in less than two weeks». «The epidemic is evolving at a sudden and rapid pace, and it is necessary to respond to it with such rapid decisions», he insisted.

«Even the cases of resuscitation are increasing and therefore (...) it is necessary to make sure the virus is not spread to regions that were spared from it, while limiting the spread in the already affected areas», he stressed.

Khalid Aït Taleb believes that «we cannot predict future measures, depending on the epidemiological evolution», but that it is in any case «difficult to return to total containment». «That being said, we have other solutions so as to avoid other impacts».

«Giving citizens a delay cannot stop the virus. It is understandable that we are unhappy, considering how quickly things were decided», he explained.

An increasingly less predictable epidemiological situation

As for the reasons behind the increasing number of infections, regardless of respecting sanitary measures public spaces, Khalid Aït Taleb said that this could be linked to the arrival of Moroccans from Europe.

«Among Moroccans who arrived from Spain to Tangier, three positive cases were detected : we cannot say that these travelers are behind the epidemiological situation currently being observed in the city», the Minister insisted. According to him, «the increase in cases is due to an increase in movements and a significant resumption of activities».

In addition, Khalid Aït Taleb indicated that patients are turning less quickly to hospital structures. «During their consultation, their viral load has already gone down, but because they arrive late to the hospital, doctors more often find themselves curing people suffering from the effects of Covid-19 and not the virus itself, which we only trace through antibody tests and not PCR», he explained.

During this press conference, the members of the scientific committee responsible for monitoring the pandemic within the Ministry of Health also reviewed the scientific aspects of this development. In this sense, Dr. Moulay Hicham Afif indicated that, ultimately, «we cannot know the peak of the pandemic» currently, in the case of Morocco. «In recent weeks, the rate of contagion has picked up again and we have not yet observed what can be considered a peak», he stressed.

Also a member of the scientific committee, Dr Abdelfattah Chakib warned that the next two days could be marked by an outbreak of Covid-19 infections, on the basis of data available to the Ministry.

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