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    Morocco's Economic Resurgence Faces Delta Variant Threat

    New daily cases have nearly doubled in less than a week as Morocco faces a mix of exuberance and caution.

    11 Jul 2021

    Rabat - Amid the massive Operation Marhaba and a resurging economy, Morocco faces a renewed threat as the Delta Variant of COVID-19 spreads. Morocco is finally again welcoming visitors from abroad as many hope to recover from an incredibly difficult year. For millions of Moroccans who depend directly and indirectly on tourism, hopes are high.

    Months of good news on the COVID-19 front of declining new cases and deaths have resulted in hopes for an economic revival, but have also led to a more lax approach to COVID-19 measures. With less adherence and enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing, citizens are returning to a new normal, while international experts warn that the worst might not be over yet.

    The Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, Mike Ryan, is one of the experts ringing the alarm. Cases around the world are rising, Ryan warned at a WHO press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, July 7. “There has been a 33% increase in cases in the European region last week,” Ryan emphasized as it appears no country is safe from the new variants of the COVID-19 virus.

    “The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added at the same press conference. The WHO chief highlighted that the world has quietly passed a “tragic milestone” after four million COVID-19 related deaths have now been recorded worldwide.

    Economy vs. public health

    For governments around the world, the continued evolution of virus variants is demanding new government responses. In Europe, booster shots are considered for its fully vaccinated population, while other governments have again imposed lockdowns to desperately attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

    The renewed spread of the COVID-19 virus, fueled by its new mutations, is again presenting global decision-makers with the uncomfortable choice between prioritizing public health or the economy.

    That choice is apparent in Morocco, where millions are finally seeing an end to a year of economic malaise, while the government is aware that a resurgence of cases could undermine such progress.

    Over the past 24 hours, Morocco has recorded 1,279 new daily cases, roughly tenfold the number when it implemented its total lockdown in March, 2020. Yet despite rising cases, stringent new measures are a threat to both economic momentum and public confidence.

    The WHO’s Mike Ryan this week called plans to reopen countries with relatively low vaccination rates a “toxic mixture” as he warned against a “premature rush” to end restrictive measures. Yet the question remains whether governments are more afraid of COVID-19 or the economic woes created by measures to restrict its spread.

    Morocco’s government has warned that “neglect, and non-compliance with precautionary measures,” are the cause of rising cases in the North African country. With 43 cases of the Delta variant now detected nationwide, the government is calling for renewed vigilance and adherence to preventive measures which “cost nothing.”

    Global problem, national solutions

    Both the government and citizens are wary of new curfews, lockdowns, and restrictions on the hospitality sector. Yet as both citizens and government point fingers at each other, the reality is that this is a problem that needs to be addressed on the individual, government, and global level.

    National COVID-19 strategies around the world have neglected to recognize one simple fact, that all nations live in a state of symbiosis where no one can be truly safe until everyone is.

    Europe and the US aimed to dispel this sense of symbiosis, by prioritizing their own populations and claiming the “lion share” of vaccines. Yet as national vaccination programs unfolded, the virus was allowed to mutate and spread in other countries.

    Major countries like India and Indonesia faced the reality of a massive new wave of infections, leading to shortages of oxygen tanks, and eventually, harrowing shortages of coffins and firewood for funeral pyres.

    As long as COVID-19 is not addressed as a global problem, countries will continue to play catch-up to an ever mutating virus, threatening a vicious cycle of new variants and resulting booster shots and new vaccines in wealthy countries, while the less fortunate countries continue to function as a breeding ground for new mutations of the virus.

    Western countries are treating the issue “as if the pandemic is already over,” warned Dr Tedros in Geneva. Yet sharp spikes of new infections continue to occur in countries around the world, the WHO chief highlighted. The continued misery caused by the virus are “compounded by fast-moving variants and shocking inequity in vaccination,” he analyzed.

    The current approach to COVID-19 is “driving a wave of death in parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” the WHO’s Secretary-General lamented. “Vaccination nationalism, where a few nations have taken the lion share, is morally indefensible and an ineffective strategy,” he added.

    As long as vaccine production is seen as a profit-making endeavour, and countries continue to treat COVID-19 as an issue that can be dealt with within borders, the virus is likely to continue to dominate the lives of citizens and decision-makers alike. While COVID-19 is adept at evolving in more efficient variants, humanity appears unwilling or unable to adapt at a similar rate.

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