RABAT, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Morocco could return to a complete coronavirus lockdown as cases continue to spike, Moroccan King Mohammed VI said on Thursday, warning of severe economic repercussions.
The warning came as a jump in infections in the once bustling tourist hub of Marrakech strained health services and led to protests by medical staff in recent days.
New cases nationally have surged to more than 1,000 a day since Morocco lifted a strict three-month long lockdown in late June and hit a record high of 1,766 on Aug. 15.
“If figures continue to increase, the COVID-19 Scientific Committee may recommend another lockdown, perhaps with even tighter restrictions,” the King said in a speech.
The deterioration of the health situation “does not leave much room for optimism,” he said.
As of Thursday, Morocco had recorded a total 47,638 cases, including 775 deaths and 32,806 recoveries.
Pictures posted on social media platforms showed COVID-19 patients in Marrakech lying on the floor of crowded hospitals.
Medics have staged protests in recent days to highlight the congestion and lack of anti-coronavirus equipment and oxygen.
The health ministry said on Wednesday it will boost capacity at the city’s hospitals.
Morocco has carried out 1.7 million tests made the wearing of masks mandatory.
An emergency decree giving authorities leeway in restoring restrictive measures has been extended until Sept. 10.
The Moroccan economy is expected to contract by 5% this year, while the budget deficit is forecast to deepen by 7.5% of gross domestic product. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by Richard Pullin)
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