Morocco medical equipment to meet coronavirus needs

Some 13 million masks, made of Moroccan fabric and in conformity with international standards, have so far been distributed to meet demand.
Thursday 30/04/2020
Employees work on a Moroccan ventilator at a factory following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Casablanca, Morocco April 10. (Reuters)
Innovative approach. Employees work on a Moroccan ventilator at a factory following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Casablanca, Morocco April 10. (Reuters)

Casablanca

Morocco has started producing its own medical equipment in response to growing demand because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Rising demand for ventilators in Europe and the United States, which have been overwhelmed by the number of patients afflicted with the virus that are struggling to breathe, pushed Morocco to make its own respiratory machines.

The Aeronautical and Space Industries Group (GIMAS), which has been badly affected by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the global economy, is taking part in the development and creation of ventilators that are made completely in Morocco, in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Green and Digital Economy and in collaboration with several technological partners and medical professionals.

The delivery of 500 ventilators is scheduled for the end of April.

“Because we believe in the resilience of Morocco and Moroccans, we opted for a proactive, open and innovative approach,” said GIMAS president Karim Cheikh.

“Our contribution to the manufacture of the first Moroccan ventilator is just one example of the transfer of the know-how, the agility we are capable of and the adaptability of aeronautics and space companies,” said Cheikh.

“The objective is to tackle together the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mutations that will be necessary,” he added.

The factory of the company which supplies parts to French aircraft engine maker Safran (SERMP) was reorganised to contribute to the manufacture of ventilators.

“In this aeronautical factory, the engineers mobilised and the whole ecosystem was set up very quickly for the production of this Moroccan ventilator,” said Minister of Industry, Trade and Green and Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy.

“We are already in the second version which allows, in addition to providing ventilation, having sensors and sending oxygen in a more technical way,” said the minister.

Badre Jaafar, director of SERMP, told media that the ventilators were manufactured in accordance with high aeronautical standards.

“The design of this ventilator is completely Moroccan, from the manufacturing of the reduction motor, to electronic cards, to other mechanical parts, to assembly,” said Jaafar.

The government allocated $200 million last month to acquire medical equipment and medicine to prepare for the pandemic and has offered financial support to companies making anti-coronavirus medical equipment.

It took a series of stringent measures, including a public health state of emergency, in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The government also made wearing face masks compulsory a few days after coordinating with local firms to have the manufactured in bulk.

Abdelaziz Lazrak, director of Micagricol, told The Arab Weekly that his employees were on the front line of helping the country in its fight against the pandemic.

“These are difficult times during which we need to work hand-in-hand to fight the pandemic. We are producing over a million masks per day and trying to increase the capacity by 10% every day,” said Lazrak.

“Our short-term target is 1.5 million masks per day in the next few days which can go up to two million,” Lazrak told The Arab Weekly.

Elalamy said that Moroccan firms had produced over 3.2 million masks per day.

Some 13 million masks, which are made of Moroccan fabric and conform to international standards, have so far been distributed in local shops across the country to meet demand.

Elalamy saw an opportunity to export the products to neighbouring European countries, which have been badly hit by the pandemic.

“When local needs are met, Morocco could export its masks to Europe,” said Elalamy.

Lazrak echoed Elalamy’s statement, saying that the Moroccan market was the top priority.

“We need to supply the local market until customers’ needs are satisfied,” said Lazrak.

But ten days after the start of the distribution of masks, several local shops in Casablanca, which has become the epicentre of the pandemic, are complaining.

“It has been more than a week that I have been asking the distribution network for delivering masks because customers keep asking about them every day,” said Lyazid, a grocery shop owner in the upscale Gauthier neighbourhood in central Casablanca.

Several people took to social media to complain about the lack of masks in their local shops and supermarkets.

Those caught without a mask will be fined $130 and could face up to three months in prison.

The North African country has recorded 2251 infection cases and 128 deaths as of April 16.