Morocco suspends inbound passenger flights on Covid variant

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Rabat (AFP) – Morocco will suspend incoming passenger flights for two weeks from Monday evening due to concern over the spread of a new highly mutated Covid-19 variant, dubbed Omicron, a government committee said.

“The decision was taken because of the rapid spread of the new variant of Covid, Omicron, especially in Europe and Africa, and in order (…) to protect the health of Moroccan citizens,” said the committee responsible for overseeing Morocco’s Covid response in a statement.

He said the measure would take effect from 11.59pm (10.59pm GMT) Monday for two weeks, and would be evaluated regularly to make “adjustments if necessary.”

Repatriation flights from Morocco will be organized in collaboration with embassies on a case-by-case basis, an official source said.

The announcement came hours after Israel said it would close its borders to foreign tourists from Sunday evening in a bid to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

The variant was first detected in South Africa, with cases reported in several countries, prompting countries to reimpose containment measures that many hoped were a thing of the past.

Morocco, whose economy relies heavily on tourism, announced on Friday an entry ban for travelers from South Africa and six other African countries.

He had already decided to suspend flights to and from France amid a peak in coronavirus infections in Europe.

France has the largest Moroccan expat community in the world, with over a million Moroccans living in the EU member state.

Some 80,000 French nationals live in Morocco.

In October, Morocco announced it was suspending flights to and from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia over concerns over coronavirus trends in those countries.

Morocco has officially registered around 950,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 14,500 deaths.

Earlier this month, the North African kingdom lifted a nighttime curfew imposed months earlier to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

More than 22 million of Morocco’s 37 million inhabitants have received two doses of the vaccine against the virus.

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