Morocco spotlighted those it appraised as essential workers for their efforts under three months of strict quarantine measures as the country took prudent precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19.
On March 19, Morocco announced a state of emergency. Ensuing legislation limited movement by enforcing a firm 6:00 p.m. curfew and requiring residents to obtain government authorization to break stay-at-home orders. Local law enforcementpatrolled the streets and promised hefty fines and arrests to those willing to violate the confinement measures.
In Rabat, not unlike other parts of the country, the once-bustling city center, markets, and boulevards turned eerily quiet with military tanks and checkpoints dotting otherwise vacant streets.
While the restrictions weighed heavily on Morocco’s population and wore the economy thin, many have praised the country for its proactive and controlled response to the pandemic, saying it has prevented scores of infections and deaths from the novel coronavirus.
Under the special circumstances, a number of workers were permitted to work from home—Parliament members, schools, and even museums endeavored new virtual approaches to their activities.
Others received special permissions to go about their daily work lives and operate grocery stores, banks, trams, and necessary office centers to mitigate the negative impacts of the lockdown and keep hardships at bay.
A more visible set of workers received permission to maintain business activities and leave home as well. Despite the inherent risks associated with their daily interactions during the peak of the crisis, these essential workers emphasized a desire to uphold their businesses and serve their communities with what was necessary to endure months of overall isolation.
There are the workers operating small shops, law enforcement officers, street cleaners, butchers and bakers, workers delivering propane tanks, fishermen, guards, and construction workers, to name a few.
“I have sold fruits and vegetables here for many years,” said Boujamaa, a produce stand owner in Rabat. “It is my responsibility to preserve the country and its citizens by staying open.”
Other small shop owners echoed Boujamaa’s words, emphasizing their role in “helping the country” and maintaining aspects of day-to-day life while following government orders to stay safe.
After extending the lockdown twice, Morocco eased restrictions on June 10. It remains under partially eased state of emergency measures. The workers once deemed most essential are now in the company of others who have opened up to the public under mandated safety regulations such as temperature checks, sanitation stations, and the use of face masks.
A man waters the grass planted in a median between two sides of the road. Rabat, Morocco, May 2020. Photo: Kristen Gianaris/Morocco World News