June 10, 2020 / 6:04 PM / 2 months ago

Moroccan MPs rap virus lockdown extension, saying people 'exhausted'

RABAT (Reuters) - Government and opposition members of parliament on Wednesday criticised the extension of parts of Morocco’s coronavirus lockdown, saying people were desperate to emerge from confinement as the economic damage had worsened.

Rabat has eased some measures in regions with low infection rates but kept in place a ban on people leaving their homes without permits in areas with higher numbers of COVID-19 cases including some larger cities. Restaurants, cafes, cinemas and other businesses in the vital services sector also remain shut.

“Moroccans are exhausted...Their desire to end the lockdown reflects the shocking reality of social and economic confinement,” said Abdellatif Ouahbi, head of the largest opposition party PAM.

Abdellah Bouano of the Islamist PJD party that is part of the ruling coalition, said maintaining the lockdown showed “a lack of vision” and urged a return to normalcy.

The focus on COVID-19 had also been detrimental to the care of patients suffering from other diseases, he said.

Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani countered that the lockdown had helped to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed.

Only 1% of intensive care beds were occupied and only 2.5% of people who had caught the virus had died, he said.

Authorities have released from lockdown all businesses except those in the service sector and has offered monthly stipends of up to 2,000 dirhams ($200) to those made jobless by the lockdown.

Otmani said the loosening of restrictions would proceed gradually and on a region-by-region basis but could be reimposed in full if infection rates resurged.

He gave no date to resume international flights, however, drawing criticism in parliament.

Morocco has increased its daily testing capacity to 17,500 and had confirmed 8,455 cases of COVID-19 infections including 210 deaths by Wednesday afternoon.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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