Surge in covid cases, entry of tourists and MRE: Should we be worried?

In just a few days, the number of positive cases for Covid-19 in Morocco has increased from 50 to more than 100 cases, which has drawn the attention of specialists. This resurgence of cases, which occurs in parallel with the start of the holidays and the upcoming entry MREs, raises many questions. How can this spike in cases be explained? Should we be worried? What are the possible scenarios?

For several days, Morocco has been facing a surge in new Covid-19 infections. Solicited by MoroccoLatestNews UK on this subject, Dr. Tayeb Hamdi, doctor, researcher in policies and health systems, remains positive and specifies that this outbreak of cases must be put in context.

After the easing of restrictive measures, recently, especially during the month of Ramadan, people have considered this easing beyond its meaning believing that they can gather and kiss each other as they see fit, no longer wear the mask or even not washing your hands. There are even those who considered that the virus no longer exists and that the pandemic is over.e”, Dr. Hamdi first explains to us.

Just after the holy month which saw the opening of the mosques for the prayer of ” Tarawih“, the Eid Al-Fitr holiday also recorded a significant movement of the population.

Travel between cities exploded during this holiday. Suppose we had 50 cases in Morocco, 5 in Oujda, 10 in Ouarzazate, 9 in Agadir, etc. As long as there is no gathering, the number of cases remains more or less scattered. But the displacements that took place during the Aid holiday meant that the virus was carried from one region to another like a gale in addition to family gatherings. All this has accelerated the resurgence of covid cases in the Kingdom“, explains the researcher in policy and health system.

Ramadan, Aid and rallies behind the surge

On December 15, 2021, Morocco recorded its first Omicron case, despite border closures. An enigma for specialists. Known for its mutations, two Omicron sub-variants appeared a few weeks later, namely BA1 and BA2.

In Morocco, the dominant variant was BA1, says Dr. Tayeb, noting that in recent weeks, BA2 has taken over. ” The latter is much more transmissible than BA1 (more virulent). Ramadan, the Aid holiday, family gatherings in addition to the indifference of citizens to barrier measures, have caused positive cases to climb“, he explains.

Asked about the possible scenarios, especially since Morocco is preparing to receive its MREs, some of whom have not returned to Morocco for two years, in addition to the approaching school holidays, Dr. Tayeb Hamdi specifies that “ most MREs and tourists who come to us from abroad are vaccinated. The risk of transmission of the virus therefore remains low. What can happen, however, is the risk of entry of the BA4 and BA5 variants (detected in South Africa, with a few cases in Europe)“, he tells us.

With the opening of air and sea borders around the world and the resumption of tourism and travel, these two variants, BA4 and BA5, will certainly land in Morocco, says the specialist.

This does not mean that we have to close everything again, since it will happen anyway either in this month of May or in June, since it is a question of more transmissible variants. That said, they are not more virulent than BA2, but much more transmissible“, he specifies.

Herd immunity helps lower cases

Should we therefore expect a deterioration in the epidemiological situation in our country? The response from the health policy and systems researcher is “ Nope“.

» We have 50, 80 or even 100 cases per day in Morocco, which is good. But these results are not the result of containment or restrictive measures. These data are the result of the population immunity already built up in Morocco thanks to the vaccination of two thirds of the population, in addition to the contamination of a large number of citizens with Covid at the very beginning of the pandemic.“, explains the specialist.

Another point raised by Dr. Hamdi to explain the increase in cases is the change of season. ” In spring and summer, people open their windows a lot to ventilate. This multiplies by 20 the risk of contamination and contagion“, he said, before specifying that the reception of tourists and MREs this summer will have no impact on our epidemiological situation.

There will certainly be an increase in covid cases, but its impact on hospitalization, on serious cases admitted to REA, will be low. Of course, you have to be vigilant. We even propose to lift the obligation of the mask in public and closed spaces, and replace this obligation with the recommendation to fragile, vulnerable and unvaccinated populations, to put on their mask in closed spaces and in large gatherings.“, recommends Dr. Hamdi.

For those who are not vaccinated, the specialist offers them to do so, “ in particular, people aged 60 and over who have chronic illnesses“, noting that” the risk of catching the Omicron is low, but not zero“.

Looking ahead to the winter of 2023, Dr. Hamdi estimates that there will certainly be a significant upsurge in cases, especially if the BA4 and BA5 variants arrive in Morocco.

It is therefore necessary to get vaccinated now and perhaps even plan, at the end of the summer, in September, a 4th dose for vulnerable people.“, he recommends.

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