In Morocco, lockdown of major cities clogs roads ahead of holiday weekend
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On Sunday, July 26, Moroccan authorities announced a ban on travel to and from eight major cities – including Marrakech, Casablanca, Fez, Rabat, Meknes and Tangier – following a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country. This announcement was followed by panic as Moroccans rushed to return home from holidays or reach their families before the ban was put into place July 27. Photos and videos posted online show traffic jams and accidents as the travel ban caused a rush in and out of the affected cities.
Morocco recorded 633 new cases of coronavirus on the day the travel ban was announced, increasing confirmed infections in the country to more than 20,000. While Morocco began easing its initial lockdown last month, a surge of new cases has caused the ministries of health and interior to re-establish some restrictions. A state of emergency in the country has been extended to August 10.
Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani said on Sunday that the move came after significant increases of positive cases were seen over the weekend. He echoed the concerns of other government officials that citizens are not following preventive guidelines and social distancing measures.
This new lockdown came just days before Eid al-Adha, which will be celebrated in Morocco on July 31. The Islamic holiday is generally celebrated with family reunions and travel. Moroccans residing in any of the eight affected cities are now prohibited from leaving to visit family in other parts of the country.
The ban was announced in the evening of July 26, around 8 p.m., giving Moroccans only four hours to return home or reach their families. Videos and photos show the consequent congestion on highways in and out of large cities such as Casablanca.
“Blocked for kilometers, sometimes an accident,” this poster observes the traffic coming out of Casablanca hours before the ban will be put into place.
“People fleeing, the highway toll booths crowded before midnight, the last deadline before the closures of eight cities of the kingdom.”
Some are blaming the travel ban for an increase in traffic accidents as Moroccans rushed in and out of affected cities. The video below shows the aftermath of a collision outside of Fez, but accidents have also been reported between Marrakech and Agadir.
On the morning of July 27, many were still in transit, causing the congestion of a major mountain pass in the south of Morocco. Many pictures and videos were shared from the Tishka, a one-lane mountainous road between Ouarzazate and Marrakech.
A video taken from above shows the line of cars stopped on the Tishka.
Transport stations overrun
While videos of highways filled with automobile traffic made the rounds on social media, public transportation was just as affected by the ban. The video below shows Moroccans arriving at the Ouled Ziane bus station in Casablanca, hoping to exit the city before the ban began. While some were able to board a bus or taxi to their destination, others waited outside of the bus station well past midnight with no luck.
“#Casablanca. Citizens arriving at #OuledZiane bus station before the travel ban comes into effect,” this post says.
The train station in Tangier was equally inundated with voyagers hoping to exit the city before it was locked down.
Authorities have not announced when normal travel will resume to these eight cities, or whether Morocco will return to similar containment measures taken in March.
Article written by Pariesa Young