Truly, the coronavirus has scarred the world in ways more than one. It has sent economies crashing, caused many to be indebted, travels were restricted, masks are now the ‘in thing’. Not to talk of the deaths of millions and hospitalization of much more. The first wave was quite a gloomy time. But that was then and this is now, humankind continues to persevere. A lot of countries have put this ugly past behind them and are putting up a good fight to return things to the normal pre-COVID state.
To do that, they had to lift the ban on transport, open up public places, and the like, aggressive vaccination and PCR testing. Many will consider these moves too risky, even foolish on the premise that the presumed cons outweigh the pros. Every now and then there is a new variant of COVID-19 running rampage. The coronavirus is not going away, at least not anytime soon. So how long can we sit at home and wish away the coronavirus? Mind you the economy is persistently falling to heights where redemption might be difficult, if not impossible. The strain on the resources is massive. To put it differently, we can only consume and are unable to produce; the foreseeable future is quite bleak.
The Morocco situation
Morocco is one of those countries that are hesitant about opening their country because of COVID phobia. Morrocco is a North-African country at the edge of the Atlantic ocean. In addition to Israel, and Japan Morocco was the only country that closed its borders for the nth time in late November 2021 in fear of the fast-spreading omicron, and is only expected to reopen by late January 2022. As of the time, this article was written Israel has already reopened its borders to tourism even though the Omicron wave is still at its peak.
Also, they banned all forms of public gatherings including new year celebrations and commenced aggressive vaccination.
Before the coronavirus came, Morocco was among the top 20 destinations for tourists. Reports say about 10 million tourists visit yearly. According to a report by koenma.com tourism alone contributed 18.9% of the nation’s GDP. It is ranked the second largest enterprise in the country.
Expectedly, those values have fallen drastically, with no thanks to COVID-19, and it is expected to continue to fall.
Nothing has hit the Moroccan tourism sector as hard as the pandemic. The country has lost two seasons of tourism and is about to lose even more. All hopes for things returning to normalcy were dashed by recent spikes from the novel variant–omicron. Every passing hour the tourism sector tilts closer to bankruptcy.
From the outskirts of Marrakesh to Jamaa el-Fnaa square, everywhere looks abandoned. These were places that once blossomed with life and were filled to the brim with foreign tourists. The life tourism brought to those streets has been almost extinguished. Artists who were once celebrated there have turned to beggars. Every earner in these tourism strongholds badly wants the country to open its doors again to tourists. Like the late Robert Nesta Marley said “A Hungry Man is an Angry Man” a saying that should be considered by the decision-makers.
In fact, according to Dr. Tayeb Hamdi, a Moroccan physician, and researcher in health systems and policies, opening the national territory to Moroccans and foreigners is less risky from an epidemiological point of view.
In addition, the words of Zalmat Lahcen perfectly sum up this dire condition, “These restrictions are unjustified and they have made Morocco lose tourists to Mediterranean competitors like Turkey”. In addition because of the unpredictability of the Moroccan authorities many tour operators are now afraid to book the Moroccan destination as they have already been burned several times and have lost dearly in every case. Not to mention the suffering that many foreign tourists had to endure every time the borders were shut down without any warning.
By extension, this also means that the hotel industry is also on its knees. The research on 585 hotel properties by Smith Travel Research (STR) data showed that there was a drastic fall in revenue. Unsurprisingly the occupancy of those hotels fell from about 60.30% to about 20%
It shut down for almost a year. “We went from $3.5 million in sales in 2019 and in 2020, January, and February – a couple of hundred thousand dollars, so other than that it all went away”, said Jeff Wilson, CEO of Experience It Tours.
What is the way forward?
But is all the fuss really necessary? The omicron variant is not as deadly as the preceding variants, not that it should be underestimated. Morocco can pick a thing or two from the way Israel, the United States, and some European countries handled omicron. An aggressive vaccination campaign could be initiated while opening up their country to commerce.
They can do better by isolating and testing tourists at the airports and the borders. An ‘all-out’ border closure does more harm than good. There could also be a broad base outreach vaccination campaign of the people to inform the internationals and the locals to get the booster dose because you are only as safe as your neighbors. Booster doses bolster the immune response, in addition, they help them fight off new variants of the virus that arises from the system.
In addition, it makes little or no sense to keep the country locked up against an infection that has already entered the country.
Furthermore, some scientists claim that the omicron might play a key role in helping humans acquire immunity against other lethal variants like the Delta. To put it differently, when the omicron is on the rise, deadly variants like the delta are on the low. Morocco could take advantage of this fortunate coincidence.
Reports say that if the country continues on this path, the country will enter into its worst recession since 1996. Maybe it is time to try a different approach. Morocco could strengthen its healthcare infrastructure to be able to handle sudden spikes in demand which if the past 2 years have thought us anything is that they will happen periodically. Credit should be given to the Moroccan government however as they have made a good move by passing a new law that will allow morocco to bring in medical talent from other countries to meet the acute shortage of doctors and nurses.