Morocco timidly re-opens borders after Covid-19 lockdown
Morocco cautiously re-opens its borders to the outside world as from 15 July, but only to Moroccan nationals and foreign residents of the kingdom. Only two airlines are authorised to carry out flights between Morocco and some selected destinations, including France, but at a prohibitive price.
“The prices are simply too much. It’s as if we’re paying for the airlines’ losses during the lockdown,” 49-year-old Hassan told RFI after spending the last few days trying to book an air ticket from Paris to Marrakech.
Hassan, a butcher of Moroccan origin, owns his own business and works in and around Paris. He regularly travels, on low cost carriers, to Morocco. But this is the first time he said he is seeing such high prices.
“Last year I paid 560 euros for a Paris-Marrakech return ticket for three people. This summer, for the same period, I will have to pay over 4,000 euros,” he said.
Royal Air Maroc, Morroco’s national airline and the low cost Air Arabia Maroc are the only two airlines allowed to carry flights to and from the kingdom. But not all of Morocco’s airports are opened to travellers. Casablanca, Fes, Rabat, Marrakech Oujda, Nador and Tangiers are the only ones operational at the moment.
“There are many Moroccans living in France who told me they will not be able to go visit their families as they usually do each summer,” Hassan added.
After 14 July midnight, Moroccan borders will re-open, four months after suspending all flights and passenger ship traffic. But the government insists it is "an exceptional operation" only for Moroccan nationals and foreign residents of the kingdom.
Despite the high prices, most flights on the two airlines appear to have been booked.
Tourists are not yet allowed to visit Morocco and Air France indicated that it may resume flights to Morocco in September but only towards three airports and if restrictions are eased down.
No entry without Covid tests
Travellers to Morocco will be allowed on board upon presentation, at the airport, of negative results for two Covid-19 tests – virology and serology – done 48 hours prior to take off. The same rule applies to people travelling by sea.
In France the virology test, or PCR test as it is known in the country, costs 54 euros and is fully subsidised by the government if prescribed by a doctor for patients showing symptoms.
Serology tests cost between 10 to 25 euros and are reimbursed, by the national social security agency, under certain conditions only.
The government in Morocco has extended the health emergency until 10 August because of clusters of Covid-19 outbreak and, on 13 July, it announced a return to lockdown measures in the northern port city of Tangiers.
At the moment, only passenger ships from the ports of Sète in southern France and that of Genoa in Italy are authorised to dock in Morocco. People used to crossing the Mediterranean from Sète to Morocco told RFI that the current prices are higher than what they usually pay.
“I think Morocco is trying to limit the number of people allowed into the country,” Hassan said.
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