Morocco shuts down major cities to contain surge in COVID-19 cases

The country eased a nationwide lockdown a month ago, though international flights are still suspended except special flights by national airlines carrying Moroccans or foreign residents.

FILE: A Moroccan woman, wearing a protective face mask, walks in a street in Tangiers' Old City on 14 June 2020, after the announcement of lockdown measures in the northern port city to smother a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus, weeks after easing nationwide restrictions. Picture: AFP.

RABAT - Morocco will stop people entering and leaving some of its biggest cities from midnight to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, the interior and health ministries said on Sunday.

The cities to be locked down include the economic powerhouse of Casablanca as well as Tangier, Marrakech, Fez, and Meknes.

The country eased a nationwide lockdown a month ago, though international flights are still suspended except special flights by national airlines carrying Moroccans or foreign residents.

On Sunday, the health ministry said 633 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, one of the biggest daily rises so far, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 20,278, with 313 deaths and 16,438 recoveries.

Morocco has carried out 1.1 million tests and has made mask-wearing mandatory. It has extended an emergency decree, until 10 August, giving authorities leeway in restoring restrictive measures on a region-by-region basis depending on developments in the epidemic.

The government expects Morocco to record a budget deficit of 7.5% of gross domestic product this year, and the economy to shrink by 5%.

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