Mustapha Baitas, spokesman for the Alawite government, announced in the House of Representatives the repatriation of 5,670 Moroccans via air bridges from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Portugal

Rabat repatría a casi 6.000 marroquíes atrapados en el extranjero

PHOTO/ARCHIVO - Royal Air Maroc airline flight

On 29 November, the Kingdom of Morocco officially decreed the closure of its borders. Faced with the explosion of infections caused by the new Omicron variant, Morocco was one of the first countries to protect itself in order to "preserve the achievements made in the fight against the pandemic", and suspended all international flights to and from the Kingdom. The adoption of these drastic measures came as a surprise to both foreign tourists in the country and Moroccan citizens abroad, and although they were not initially expected to last more than two weeks, almost a month later, Morocco's borders remain sealed.

However, the delegate in charge of relations with Parliament and government spokesman, Mustapha Baitas, assured the House of Representatives on Monday that Rabat has mobilised the necessary resources to guarantee the return to the country of all citizens trapped abroad.

Between 15 and 22 December, the repatriation operation benefited 5,670 Moroccan nationals who were outside the country for family, medical, tourist or professional reasons, and who were able to return to the Kingdom via air bridges from Portugal, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. According to rue20, Baitas explained to the House that these countries were selected, and not others, because they are regional transit zones, thus facilitating the mobilisation of citizens and the focus of Moroccan efforts in various continental regions.

Parlamento de Marruecos

With regard to flight fares, the government spokesman maintained that the authorities have worked to make them affordable for all travellers, even if on some occasions the occupancy of the aircraft has not exceeded 25 or 30% of its total capacity.

This mobilisation of the necessary aircraft, the preparation of medical analyses and PCR tests, and the movement of the returnees within the country were successfully carried out thanks to a huge logistical deployment in accordance with the High Royal Guidelines of King Mohammed VI. In addition, the operation was carried out through the cooperation of several authorities and ministries, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Directorate General of National Security.

The return protocol

For their part, the nationals repatriated on these flights had to adhere to a strict health protocol, which included a PCR test with a negative result at least 48 hours before the flight. On arrival in the country, they were also required to undergo a 7-day quarantine in selected government-funded hotels and to undergo PCR tests every 48 hours during this period of confinement. The distribution of accommodation designated by Rabat has been arranged so that the city of Agadir has taken in 1,937 people, Marrakech 1,550 people, Casablanca 935, and Fez and Tangier 669 each - as stated by Baitas.

Pasajeros Marruecos

However, on 23 December, the operation came to an end after the announcement of the first positive case of the Omicron variant in the Alawi Kingdom and fears of its "explosive spread".

Morocco will remain closed until 2022

Now, with a vaccination rate of more than 60% and a spike in the number of people infected with the coronavirus, the North African country has announced the extension of the border closure until 31 January 2022. This was announced last week by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation through its National Airports Office (ONDA) accounts.

Nevertheless, the forecasts of Alawi experts on the impending wave of contagion are positive. "According to our approach in field epidemiology, based on experiences and observations, the current wave is likely to be faster and shorter than the Delta wave," said the coordinator of the National Centre for Public Health Emergency Operations at the Ministry, Muad Mrabet, to the Moroccan news agency MAP.