in Morocco, fed up with an extended containment

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A nurse confined to a hotel in Salé, north of Rabat, on April 24, 2020.

We had to ignore the rumors, foil the news, sort through the information in the media and wait for a speech that never happened. It was finally through a press release published on the night of Tuesday June 9 to Wednesday June 10, the same day as the end of the state of health emergency, that the Moroccans learned the official news: the deconfinement much hoped for will not yet take place in Morocco, yet relatively spared the pandemic with 8,508 cases, including 7,565 remissions and 211 deaths, as of June 11.

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The text provides for relief from certain measures in a less affected area of ​​the country. But major Moroccan cities will remain subject to movement restrictions, the violation of which is punishable by one to three months in prison. The state of emergency, extended for the second time, is maintained until July 10.

Industries, businesses, liberal professions and craftsmen are however authorized to resume their activity from June 11. Relief after more than 80 days following the introduction of a state of emergency, the economic cost of which is severe. According to the Minister of the Economy, each day of containment made the kingdom lose a billion dirhams (some 91 million euros), for a GDP of 119 billion dollars.

“We have no visibility”

But the prospect of a real recovery in the economy is uncertain. “We were impatiently waiting for June 10 but, once again, they showered our hopes. This confinement is a disaster for the Moroccan economy “, laments Abdellah El Fergui, president of the Moroccan Confederation of VSEs-SMEs.

“Certainly, there is an easing, but not in the area where most of the activity is concentrated. It will always be necessary to ask for authorizations for the delivery of goods and the mobility of employees, to negotiate with the agents of authority who do not understand how entrepreneurship works… The future is bleak especially for VSEs, which represent 90% of companies from the country “, he adds.

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Employees fear massive layoffs, while restaurant owners, the cultural and sports industries as well as the tourism trades say they are on the brink of financial abyss. This sector contributes to more than 7% of the national GDP. While the borders remain closed until further notice, no information has been given at this stage as to a possible resumption of tourist activity.

“This is the problem: we have no visibility. We understand that this is a public health issue, but we ask for a clear date. Otherwise, it will create a vagueness in the minds of donors and ultimately economic tension in the country ”, warns Aziz Kabbaj, hotelier in Marrakech. “Our confederation [des TPE-PME] already deplores two suicides in Casablanca and Marrakech at car rental companies. This profession, which employs 11,000 people, is disappearing ”, regrets Mr. El Fergui.

“Bribes to enforcement officers”

In Casablanca, the country’s economic lung, commercial activities are gradually resuming. Some had not waited for official authorization. “Like many other merchants in the neighborhood, we are self-defined”, says a downtown businesswoman, who asked not to be named. A few weeks ago, she opened her store, keeping the curtain closed.

“I gave bribes to the enforcement officers, admits the fifties. Nobody tells us anything, the officials don’t give speeches. So everyone manages in their own way. It’s a shame: at first, people respected sanitary measures. But the authorities do not trust the people and are afraid of letting go. In the end, they had the opposite effect: people are fed up and don’t listen to them anymore, ” she specifies.

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While the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Morocco was first hailed thanks to drastic measures taken quickly, the lack of communication and the opacity of government decisions has recently created confusion. The new restrictions are not the subject of a prior notification, each time fueling the most diverse rumors and the spread of Firefox, which are in theory severely punished by law.

Worse, the government has multiplied back co-pedaling and contradictory announcements, such as when the Minister of the Economy called on businesses to resume activity on May 20, when the Prime Minister had decided two days earlier to extend the confinement. Much criticized on social networks, Saad-Eddine Al-Othmani had declared on public television on May 8 that he had simply “No vision” for the end of the crisis.

A “toxic lockdown culture”

The subject of the 32,000 Moroccans stranded abroad has also caused confusion between ministries. Promises of repatriation remained unheeded, with officials preferring to speak directly to the Spanish press to communicate on the return of hundreds of citizens stranded in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. On May 9, during a sitting in Parliament, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita spoke for the first time of the beginning of the repatriation of Moroccans who remained in Spain, bringing back a fragile ray of hope.

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This climate of uncertainty affects household morale. “Our children are exhausted, eaten away by this anxiety-provoking situation. We live in fear of being arrested ”, laments a mother in Casablanca, where outings in the open are always prohibited. In late April, a UN official warned of the risks of a “Toxic lockdown culture”, while no less than 85,000 people had already been arrested for breaching confinement.

However, at the Ibn Roch University Hospital in Casablanca, the head of the infectious diseases department wishes to put the situation into perspective. “It is true that the population is tired by the strict confinement that was put in place at the start, that there are far fewer cases and very few people in intensive care. But you absolutely have to be vigilant, because you can easily lose your skills and see a second wave coming ”, warns Professor Kamal Marhoum Filali, who regrets a recent carelessness in the “Barrier gestures”, symptomatic of generalized rage.

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