|27 March, 2020

Morocco to spend $200mln to brace health system for coronavirus

It will spend the money on 1,000 more intensive care beds, 550 ventilators and 100,000 testing kits, as well as medicine and other equipment

Police officers patrol streets, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the outskirts of Casablanca, Morocco March 25, 2020.

Police officers patrol streets, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the outskirts of Casablanca, Morocco March 25, 2020.

REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

RABAT  - Morocco will spend an initial 2 billion dirhams ($200 million) to help its health system cope with the coronavirus outbreak, the finance ministry said on Friday as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 333.

It will spend the money on 1,000 more intensive care beds, 550 ventilators and 100,000 testing kits, as well as medicine and other equipment, the ministry added.

The government has put 1 billion dirhams into a special fund for its coronavirus response, which has been topped up with private donations.

The same fund will also finance stipends ranging from 800 dirhams ($80) to 1,200 dirhams to every head of a household operating in the informal sector whose activity was impacted by the lockdown to contain the virus, the finance ministry said.

Morocco had earlier said that the jobless who are affiliated with the pension fund will receive a monthly stipend of 2,000 dirhams up to June.

On Friday, the European Union said it would reallocate 450 million euros ($498.15 million) of previously pledged aid to Morocco's coronavirus response, with 150 million euros to be immediately put into the special fund.

The government Cabinet said earlier it aimed to increase the number of intensive care beds in Morocco to 3,000 from 1,640 now.

The health ministry has endorsed the use of antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.

As an austerity measure, the government has suspended promotions of staff and hiring in the public sector, except in the security and health sectors.

Morocco has opened up military medical facilities to coronavirus patients and deployed the military to set up field hospitals. ($1 = 0.9033 euros)

(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Angus McDowall, Alex Richardson, Pravin Char and Jonathan Oatis) ((ahmed.eljechtimi@thomsonreuters.com;))

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