How Moroccans are coping in the age of the coronavirus

Moroccans have demonstrated strong solidarity with and compassion for the needy and the vulnerable as civil society’s humanitarian actions multiplied.
Friday 03/04/2020
Moroccans confined at home watch from their window authorities instructing people out in the street to return to and remain at home, on March 25. (AFP)
Moroccans confined at home watch from their window authorities instructing people out in the street to return to and remain at home, on March 25. (AFP)

CASABLANCA - Our world has changed: the way we live, the way we shop and the way we socialise during the coronavirus crisis that has almost paralysed the globe.

Compared with many other countries, Morocco took stringent measures early, closing schools, universities, businesses, places of worship, sports clubs, retail stores and beaches.

The North African kingdom, whose public health sector has been neglected by several governments for decades, imposed a public health state of emergency from March 20 to April 20.

Suddenly, the focus turned to medical workers whom people took for granted, now highly regarded for being on the front line to save lives.

The COVID-19, which people call “the disease of the rich”, has put the wealthy on par with the poor since they are being treated in public hospitals in a country where private healthcare exposed the gap between these two layers of society.

Suddenly, supportive messages for health workers on social media have been pouring in - the same medical staff that were facing abuse and being accused of lacking commitment and professionalism, despite lacking adequate infrastructure and medical equipment to treat their patients.

Suddenly, Morocco is relying on its own manufacturers to create ventilators that are much needed to cope with the increasing demand at hospitals, and has mobilised companies to make thousands of face masks to fill the shortage.  

Suddenly, Moroccans have placed their fate in the hands of security forces to enforce the lockdown after several videos of people breaking the state of emergency went viral.

Suddenly balconies, terraces and rooftops have replaced cafes, sports clubs and parks as places for sports, distraction and smoking to break the daily routine.

Suddenly, social distancing has become the norm in front of pharmacies, grocery shops, bakeries and supermarkets; an unimaginable scene in pre-coronavirus daily life.

Suddenly, the streets are cleaner and the plants are greener amid an eerie silence that is regularly broken by the chants of birds, including swallows which were rarely seen in Casablanca’s city centre.

Moroccans have demonstrated strong solidarity with and compassion for the needy and the vulnerable as civil society’s humanitarian actions multiplied, including food deliveries to those with chronic diseases and fundraising for the needy, to help them get through the one-month lockdown.

Suddenly, plastic and palm leaf baskets tied to a rope and lowered down from balconies to those delivering the shopping have revived the old ways of delivery, which has emerged as the safest way to prevent close human contact and the spread of the disease.

Suddenly, the air in the heavily polluted industrial city of Casablanca has dramatically changed, becoming fresher and cleaner as the traffic has been virtually brought to a standstill since the state of emergency was enforced.

Suddenly, the scene of cars parked on the pavements in Casablanca’s busy districts and the long queues in front of private schools have vanished thanks to working and studying from home.

At night, the national anthem is sung by people from their balconies and windows along with security forces in several cities across the country, displaying a sense of strong patriotism in the age of coronavirus.

However, emotional stress has reached its climax among hundreds of thousands of people who have been confined to their homes for several days, finding it hard to cope with the unprecedented crisis that has taken the world aback.

Citizens are struggling to adapt to the government’s #StayHome message in populated neighbourhoods of major cities due to crammed houses and the urgency of making ends meet, prompting hundreds of arrests and fines for violating the lockdown.

Suddenly clandestine transporters are charging heavy prices, taking advantage of the travel ban and raising fear of spreading COVID-19 to less affected cities and villages that do not have the means to combat the virus.

Until the state of emergency is over, Moroccans are urged to stay home in their fight against the deadly disease which has brought the world to its knees, shutting down entire countries and causing a huge economic crisis.

This article was first published on Middle East Online