Morocco eases travel restrictions in bid to boost Covid-hit tourism sector ahead of summer
The PCR test is no longer necessary to enter Moroccan borders, the Moroccan government announced late on Tuesday.
“The Moroccan government has decided to cancel the PCR test condition for entry into Moroccan territory. (...) This decision will come into force upon publication of this press release,” said the government’s statement.
Since opening the air borders on February 7, Morocco has required travellers coming into the country to have a valid vaccine pass, including three shots, in addition to a negative PCR test.
According to the new government’s communiqué, starting from Tuesday night, a valid vaccine pass will be enough to board a plane heading to the Moroccan kingdom.
Most vaccines are accepted in Morocco, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson).
However, the announcement did not articulate further the requirements of unvaccinated passengers who want to enter the country.
In a statement to The New Arab, a source from the Moroccan scientific committee, the group in charge of advising the government on the pandemic, said unvaccinated travellers will be required to show a PCR test.
"Travellers to Morocco will be able to choose between the vaccine pass and the PCR test," said the source.
“For the conditions of travel from Morocco that depends on the restrictions mandated by your destination country,” he added.
The much-awaited announcement comes ahead of the summer season in a bid to revive the covid-hit tourism sector.
The number of tourists visiting Morocco dropped from 13 million in 2019 to 4 million in 2021. Prior to the pandemic, tourism was directly responsible for around 500,000 jobs and contributed $8 billion to the economy.
During the past two years, Morocco has followed a strict Covid policy that led to the closure of airspace to avoid a health setback.
The months-long closures have mainly affected workers in the tourism industry. As various hotels and tourism agencies closed their doors due to the lack of visitors, many tourism operators also lost their jobs.
The government has provided 2 billion dirhams ($220 million) in aid to help tourism businesses and workers cope with Covid-19 restrictions.
The reopening of airspace in February pumped hope in the Covid-hit sector, but has not resulted in enough visitors, says a hotel manager.
“Tourists started coming since the reopening. The numbers increase each month but not like the pre-Covid. Many people are still hesitant to visit due to the travel conditions and the three shots vaccine pass required,” said Amir, the manager of a Riad in Marrakech.
However, earlier this month, the Moroccan scientific committee asserted that lifting the vaccine pass is not up for discussion.
“The epidemiological situation is stable, the current gains must be preserved, with the need to adhere to precaution and encourage people to get vaccinated and to recover the collective immunity,” said the committee on May 6.
Morocco has mandated the vaccine pass in public places since October last year. However, a tour of Rabat's commercial premises shows that only some big chains and shopping malls are still requesting proof of vaccination.
Since the mandate, the union of cafe and restaurant owners, the lawyers union, rights groups and some opposition parties have protested the pass as unconstitutional, arbitrary and a danger to the economy.
While 23.3 million Moroccans are fully vaccinated (63.4% of the population), only 6.3 million are boosted.
Four months after receiving the second shot, Moroccans are required to get boosted to issue a new valid vaccine pass.