Giant traffic jams on roads and stations taken by storm: the lightning decision of the Moroccan authorities to introduce severe travel restrictions, Sunday evening July 26, affecting eight cities, including Marrakech and Tangier, facing the risk of the spread of the coronavirus, caused scenes of chaos.

The announcement of these travel restrictions via a joint statement from the ministries of the interior and of health five hours before the entry into effect on Sunday at midnight even caused several road accidents, according to several local media.

Read also Which cities, regions or countries are re-establishing containment to contain the pandemic?

The mountain road leading from Marrakech to Ouarzazate was still blocked Monday morning due to the influx of cars, according to the same source.

The last-minute measures also sparked a flood of disappointment on social media. “I understand that everyone is angry but we have no choice: the epidemiological situation in Morocco is worrying with an increase in the number of deaths and serious cases”Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb said on Monday.

The country has “Recorded in one week more cases of contamination than in four months”, he said during a press briefing. The last few days have been marked by a record number of contaminations with 811 cases on Saturday and 633 cases on Sunday. A total of 20,887 cases have been officially registered, including 316 deaths.

” Until further notice “

The closure ” until further notice “ of the eight cities – which have more than half of the country’s population – was decided on because of the “Considerable increase” cases of contamination a few days before Eid Al-Adha, the great Muslim feast of sacrifice, scheduled for Friday and traditionally marked by family reunions.

Only those holding special permits can enter and leave the cities concerned: the economic capital Casablanca, the tourist capital Marrakech (south), the port metropolis of Tangier – the second economic hub of the kingdom – but also Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Berrechid and Settat .

Read also Morocco isolates major cities to halt sharp rise in coronavirus epidemic

The Moroccan authorities announced in mid-July a further easing of the containment measures adopted in March, with provisions to encourage domestic tourism and facilitate travel during Eid Al-Adha.

The new restrictions have been taken “With regard to the non-compliance by the majority of citizens with preventive measures social distancing, wearing a mask », according to the official statement.

The interior ministry warned on Saturday that the authorities “Do not hesitate to apply the penalties provided for by law”, by pointing a “Relaxation” wearing a mask, compulsory in Morocco. The penalties are up to three months in prison and a fine of up to 1,300 dirhams (115 euros).

The World with AFP