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Coronavirus

Morocco’s health minister defends mandatory COVID-19 vaccine pass

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Morocco’s health minister said on Monday that last week’s introduction of a vaccine pass to access public places had led to a more than fivefold increase in people seeking the jab, as opponents of the measure criticized it in parliament.

The government introduced the pass on Thursday for access to all government buildings, as well as spaces such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, gyms and transportation, aiming to expand Africa’s most extensive COVID-19 vaccination program.

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The union of cafe and restaurant owners, the lawyers union, rights organizations and some opposition parties have variously attacked the pass as unconstitutional, arbitrary or a danger to the economy.

Health Minister Khaled Ait Taleb, speaking in parliament, said the decision was in line with an emergency government decree issued last year giving authorities the right to take exceptional measures to protect public health.

“The adoption of the vaccine pass aims to encourage people who have not been inoculated yet to get vaccinated and to prevent virus hot spots,” he said.

The number of people getting vaccinated had risen by more than 400 percent since the pass was imposed, he said.

Morocco has administered doses to 64 percent of its population using mostly the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccines. It has also started administering booster jabs.

In the next few weeks, Morocco will be able to vaccinate 6 million people to reach a collective immunity level of 80 percent of its population over 12 years old, he said.

The vaccination campaign will be extended to undocumented migrants and other vulnerable groups, he said.

Two parliament members were prevented from attending the question session with the minister, according to opposition members, who said there was insufficient consultation and too little notice before imposing the pass.

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