Morocco leads anti-coronavirus drive in North Africa
RABAT--With eight million inoculations already administered, Morocco is “leading” the anti-coronavirus drive in North Africa, said the French magazine Le Point, noting that since the start of the pandemic, the kingdom “has once again unrolled its know-how.”
“Morocco has reached autonomy when it comes to manufacturing protection equipment, including masks. The country then started export after achieving self-sufficiency. Now, Morocco is pressing ahead with its anti-coronavirus strategy, scoring the highest rate of vaccinations in North Africa,” Le Point noted.
Morocco has rolled out a vaccination campaign more rapidly than its neighbours, inoculating 4.38 million people with AstraZeneca and Sinopharm shots to date.
As of April 2, the kingdom revealed 3.8 million Moroccans had received two doses. About 4.3 million others had received their first dose.
“Against 53,000 in Tunisia and 75,000 in Algeria. A gap,” Le Point noted.
The comparison between Morocco and Algeria is “all the more painful for political egos because it is not a question of money, with the purchasing capacity of Algiers not being questioned by anyone,” adds Le Point, noting that the “war of doses” is fought with diplomatic influence.
“Algiers suffers from the dwindling of its role on the regional and international arena, caused by internal crises”.
“Faced with international vaccine diplomacy, each country is playing its part. With eight million vaccinations administered, Morocco is leading the way,” the magazine said.
In July, Morocco entered into an agreement with China for the construction of a vaccine factory in the north of the country. A month later, on August 20, Rabat signed an agreement with Sinopharm for the delivery of 40.5 million doses of the Chinese vaccine. And, on September 18, a second agreement with the British AstraZeneca provided for the delivery of 25.5 million additional doses. This brings the total number of doses to 66 million, more than sufficient to administer the two required jabs to the target population over 18 years old.
Besides, to avoid any possible supply disruptions, the Moroccan government is currently negotiating with the Russians to receive 1 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, which obtained, on March 9, the approval of the Morocco’s Health Ministry.
That being said, the construction of a vaccine factory, experts say, would allow the kingdom to serve as a supply platform for the African continent. Yet, Morocco’s efforts to counter the pandemic do not stop here, since the kingdom is currently negotiating with two other vaccine suppliers: the Korean SK Bioscience, and the American Johnson & Johnson.
With the issue of supplies tackled by the kingdom, the authorities in the country have also devised an appropriate distribution strategy, mobilising 24,000 health professionals.
First measure, essential in a country with low per capita income: total free vaccination. Then, to compensate for the very unequal population density in the country, more than 3,000 vaccination centres (against 1,300 in France) were set up, of which 50% in rural areas – without counting 10,000 mobile units.
Finally, the procedure for making contact with the target populations was described by the American expert Williams Lawrence as “one of the most efficient systems in the world”: the appointment is made by sending a free SMS and sharing the ID number and then the date and place of vaccination are communicated almost immediately via SMS.
Despite leading the vaccination drive in North Africa, Morocco, however, remains vigilant, with the government saying on Wednesday that the kingdom will keep its nightly curfew in place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when people gather after breaking their fast at sunset. This comes as the authorities are underlining resolve to counter new variants of the coronavirus.
The decision to keep the 8 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will hurt restaurants, shops and markets that make most of their money in the evenings, especially during Ramadan, which this year will begin on April 13 and run through May 12. Moroccan law prohibits public eating by day during the fasting period.
Morocco will also maintain until June financial aid for workers in some of sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic including tourism.
The North African kingdom has confirmed almost half a million cases of COVID-19 and registered nearly 9,000 deaths from the global respiratory pandemic.