Our town is so quiet now that I can hear only birdsong and the occasional truck or police car passing by. Normally, our residential street is lively, with neighbors greeting each other, women stringing up laundry and children playing outside until 10 p.m.
Now each household is supposed to designate one person to go outside to shop and to the pharmacy. We each have a paper pass, stamped and signed by a local official, that we must present if asked. No one has stopped me on my brief shopping trips so far, but this morning police cars drove by me about five times during a 45-minute outing. I have been reassured by recent videos showing residents in Casablanca singing from their windows as in Italy. However, I also received one today showing a policeman slapping two young men who didn’t have the pass. The young men didn’t seem surprised, nor did they complain. They simply turned around and walked away. People here are used to strong measures from the authorities.
Morocco still has fewer than 200 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus, but our lockdown has already been extended until April 20. The government is working on economic support measures. Morocco will distribute the minimum wage of 2,000 dirhams per month (about 200 euros) to people who are on the national health insurance program. The tougher problem is Morocco’s vast informal sector. Most people here are simply paid in cash and do not have bank accounts. Finding a way to get money to them without it disappearing in baksheesh (graft) will be a challenge. As 80% of the population has mobile phones, there is talk of trying to use a mobile payment system, but it is only talk.