Allow me to put forward a few concerns regarding this global health issue. This is an unprecedented crisis in terms of its violence and its scale. Its consequences and impact are equally unique.
First of all, I would like to hail CorD Magazine’s initiative to publish this exchange platform allowing Ambassadors to share the experience of their respective countries in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the one hand, this unprecedented crisis led systematically to a national or self retreat, and on the other hand, to the rehabilitation of the State. This is a true test for globalization. A global crisis unlike any other, which mutates like the virus itself, and whose analysis evolves daily within a vulnerable global economic situation and an exceptional recession estimated at more than 3% according to the IMF.
This worldwide crisis has revealed several courses of action: real solidarity sometimes, or a “run for your life” type of reaction. But what it has demonstrated most is the lack of collective agility. Faced with this complex crisis, we ended up with fragmented responses and a lack of global coordination.
As far as Morocco is concerned, my country has been a precursor in its fight against the virus, and in the preservation of human lives. As early as it appeared on its soil, the Kingdom adopted a series of measures based on a preventive and proactive approach to contain the outbreak, thanks to the clear and smart vision of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.
Morocco’s plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic is multidimensional, and included diverse and far-reaching measures to curb the spread of the virus and counter its economic and social impact. As soon as the very first cases of Coronavirus appeared in Morocco, the country closed its maritime borders, suspended all flights from and to Morocco until further notice, and decreed a sanitary emergency state since 20 March.
To contain the pandemic, the Kingdom closed all schools and universities, as early as March 16th, and set up an e-learning platform, to which students can access using the free of charge internet offered by Moroccan network providers.
Morocco’s plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic is multidimensional and includes diverse and far-reaching measures
All worship places and all usual gathering venues have been closed, while supermarkets, groceries and banks continue to provide the necessary services. Public, private and military hospitals, which increased their Intensive Care Unit’s capacity from 1600 to 3000 beds, continue to welcome their patients in the best possible conditions, thanks to an exemplary mobilization of Moroccan civil and military medical staff.
In this regard, it is worth mentioning that a total of 47 hospitals have been reserved for patients with COVID-19, with the assistance of CHU’s and the private clinics which dedicated 504 additional resuscitation beds provided with all the necessary equipment and a medical team of 985 doctors. In addition, 177 hotels and tourist units in 38 cities, with a capacity of 7,600 beds were opened to house suspected cases of infection as part of confinement. This latter has been extended until 20th of May 2020.
The situation remains stable in Morocco (to date -April 25th-, there have been 3889 positive cases to COVID-19, 159 deaths and the significant number of 498 recovered patients). The preventive measures adopted by the Moroccan Government to fight the pandemic, have kept the situation under control and avoided the worst-case scenario, namely widening the circle of contamination.
Massive screenings are to be performed, particularly in all factories and penitentiary centres which, due to their restricted nature, are likely to become a hotbed of the virus. Besides the Rabat Institute for Hygiene, the Pasteur Institute and the Laboratory of the Mohammed V Military hospital, the network of laboratories authorized to analyze samples from COVID-19 suspected cases has been widely extended to include CHUs across the Kingdom.
Since March 23rd, Moroccan factories started producing their own sanitary masks with a total of 6.8 million masks a day. Another 17 units will shortly start producing reusable masks to boost the capacity to 8 million masks a day. Wearing masks became compulsory since April 7th for anyone authorized to move around, and national manufacturers are supplying masks to pharmacies and local shops at controlled low prices.
In parallel, Morocco has started manufacturing its own made in Morocco ventilators with an oxygen mask, to help meet the demand caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Doctors and engineers from the public sector helped design the Ministry of Health approved non-invasive ventilators with a capacity of 3,000 hours of use. Also, Morocco generalized, earlier this month, the use of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19 on all symptomatic patients, and the domestic production of the hydroalcoholic gel have increased to meet demand. These efforts were praised by the World Health Organization and international experts.
Public authorities have been highly mobilized to provide support to the populations most affected by the slowdown in economic activity, in particular through the Special Fund launched by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, which has so far collected more than 3.5 billion euros in donations. A Royal initiative which has aroused a great surge of solidarity in the country, insofar as this fund continues to receive voluntary financial contributions from the main companies of the Kingdom, insurance companies, banks, senior state officials, parliamentarians and Moroccan citizens, who joined in this act of solidarity to help the most disadvantaged.
These funds are used to finance the suspension of social charges weighing on companies and to grant them additional bank credit lines guaranteed by the State. Furthermore, the maturities of bank loans to individuals due by the end of June have been postponed in the form of longer loan terms. Also, all Moroccans affiliated to the social security system are receiving, until the end of June, up to 200 Euros per month, equivalent to 75% of the minimum wage. In addition, an Economic Watch Committee was created to assess and anticipate the direct and indirect economic impacts of COVID-19.
During this period of confinement, when all cultural activity ceased, several Moroccan cultural institutions have provided support to the population, by offering free online entertainment. In that respect, the Moroccan Cinematographic Center offers a selection of Moroccan films that Internet users can watch from their home. In addition, the National Library of Morocco put online a significant number of audiobooks in different languages, and the National Foundation of Museums of Morocco also offers free online museum visits through a 360 ° virtual immersion.
In another vein, Moroccan diplomacy has been working continuously to provide the best assistance to Moroccan nationals stranded abroad, by providing them with free accommodation, food, medicines and psychological support for those in need. Tight cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom and the foreign Diplomatic Missions in Rabat has also been initiated to organize around 500 special flights to bring more than 80 000 tourists, who happened to be in Morocco when the borders were closed, back to their homes.
The Moroccan Embassy in Belgrade has, for instance, set up a crisis unit to assist any Moroccans in Serbia and in Montenegro during these tough times. Permanent contact with them has been established and so far, no case of contamination or death was reported. The Moroccan community is keen on respecting the sanitary instructions and measures imposed by their country of residence.
Furthermore, Morocco adopted an effective communication strategy during all phases of the COVID-19 crisis management, based on the gradual delivering of information which progressively prepared the population to grasp the danger of the situation and adopt proper safety measures. The official discourse was smooth and clear and was relayed by national media (paper and digital formats) in all local languages, hence contributing to the education and awareness of the public.
Also, earlier this week, a reflection has been initiated by the Government to discuss post-corona Morocco. Thanks to His Majesty the King, Morocco acted very early by adopting clairvoyant, audacious and insightful measures, and the current debate will allow the collective intelligence to further enrich the reflection on the economic, social and political spheres:
- Recession is inevitable and Morocco is seeking ways to reverse the trend as quickly as possible and to allow companies to be more resilient and bear the effects of the crisis without too much damage. The Economic Monitoring Committee (CVE) has already started preparation of a draft of the scenarios for the gradual revival of various business sectors and the recovery of the economy;
- More investment will be poured into the scientific research and innovation sectors to create a scientific community aware of today’s and tomorrow’s challenges;
- Promoting the Building of a more cohesive society, while fighting precariousness;
- Rehabilitating both the Health and Education sectors for which the government showed extraordinary support during this crisis;
- And finally, adapting political discourse according to the new post-corona context. But Morocco’s greatest asset is the strength of character of its people.
Proud of its achievements at the national level, Morocco expressed its willingness to share its experience and expertise and show solidarity with those in need beyond its borders. Thus, Morocco accepted the request of Malian President Keïta for help by converting the Moroccan military hospital of Sébénikoro, in the capital of Bamako, into a unit for treatment of Malian COVID-19 patients.
His Majesty the king also proposed to Senegalese President Sall and Ivorian President Ouattara to draw up an “initiative of African Heads of State aimed at establishing an operational framework to support African countries in their different phases of pandemic management”, based on a pragmatic and action-oriented initiative, which enables the sharing of best practices to address the health, economic and social impact of the pandemic in the continent.
To conclude, this global crisis, which started in China, ravaged Italy, Spain and the United States, and now crawling to Africa, will not disappear until a vaccine is found. During the next two years, we might continue moving in and out of confinement, hoping that scientific research community, governments and international organizations provide adequate responses to defeat this universal pandemic and implement new economic strategies on values chains where the digital transformation will be, for sure, the keyword in this new world order.
Ambassador Mohamad Amine BELHAJ
Ambasador Mohamed Amin Belhaž