International flights: plea for an end to the air lockdown

For more than a month and a half now, the air borders have been closed without any indication of the intentions of the competent authorities. As a health precaution, the Kingdom closed its borders on 28 November to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant. The new strain ended up infiltrating the country two weeks later, causing a new wave of infections.

Given this reality, the usefulness of maintaining border closures is increasingly being questioned in scientific circles, with some voices calling for the reopening of international borders.

Among these voices is Azeddine Ibrahimi, a member of the Scientific Committee, who felt that there was no justification for suspending international flights now that the new strain is invading the country and causing the number of contagions to explode. In a post on his Facebook account, the expert, known for his repeated pleas to lift restrictions, called for the reopening of air borders for several reasons.

It’s time to live with the pandemic!

To argue his point, Azeddine Ibrahimi puts forward the idea that the closure of borders is only a preventive measure to slow down the entry of the new mutation of Covid-19 in Morocco. It would be an illusion to believe that the closure could have prevented the virus from entering. “The closure of the borders has bought us time to better prepare for the new wave and to get to know the new strain better,” he said, explaining that Omicron is not as virulent as people think.

Although Morocco is still being invaded by the new wave, maintaining the closure of borders is unnecessary and has no impact on the course of the pandemic, Ibrahimi said. Referring to a recent US study, he said that people with the new strain are 53% less likely to be hospitalised than those with Delta. In addition, the risk of going to the ICU remains 74% lower than with Delta.
Ibrahimi goes on to demonstrate that the new strain is less lethal, as Omicron patients are 91% less likely to die. Conclusion: living and coexisting with the pandemic is Azeddine Ibrahimi’s firm belief, which he did not hide in a previous interview with “L’Opinion”. According to him, the whole world is moving towards this approach.

Indeed, several countries such as Spain, Italy and Israel have already started to prepare for the exit of the health crisis. The Spanish government now considers SARS-COV-2 a seasonal epidemic.

For a more pragmatic approach

The government has made the reopening of the borders conditional on the evolution of the epidemiological situation, which cannot get any worse than it is at present, even if foreign visitors enter the country, according to Mr Ibrahimi.

The opening of the borders is all the more sustainable, in his view, since vaccinated foreign travellers are no more of a threat than unvaccinated Moroccans. Hence the need to face reality and to have a more pragmatic approach to the management of the health crisis.

Therefore, it is recommended to restart the airports with a strict sanitary protocol for foreign visitors (vaccination pass, PCR test…). For his part, the epidemiologist Jaâfar Heikel believes that the closure of borders has not prevented Omicron from spreading at high speed.

Social distancing measures and mass screening are the only ways to limit the circulation of the virus. Heikel advocates giving more importance to saving the economy, especially tourism, which has suffered the most from the status quo.

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