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COVID-19

Morocco shuts down major cities after spike in coronavirus cases

Morocco shuts down major cities after spike in coronavirus cases
epa08547754 Women line up to get their temperature measured before they enter the Mouline Rabat mosque, Morocco, 15 July 2020. The mosques were opened for the first time since their closure on 16 March, as a measure to combat the spread of the pandemic. EPA-EFE/JALAL MORCHIDI

RABAT, July 26 (Reuters) - Morocco will stop people entering and leaving some of its biggest cities from midnight to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, the interior and health Ministries said on Sunday.

The cities to be locked down include the economic powerhouse of Casablanca as well as Tangier, Marrakech, Fez and Meknes.

The country eased a nationwide lockdown a month ago, though international flights are still suspended except special flights by national airlines carrying Moroccans or foreign residents.

On Sunday, the health ministry said 633 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, one of the biggest daily rises so far, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 20,278, with 313 deaths and 16,438 recoveries.

Morocco has carried out 1.1 million tests and has made mask-wearing mandatory. It has extended an emergency decree, until August 10, giving authorities leeway in restoring restrictive measures on a region-by-region basis depending on developments in the epidemic.

The government expects Morocco to record a budget deficit of 7.5% of gross domestic product this year, and the economy to shrink by 5%. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Pravin Char)

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