Call it what you will — CoViD 19; Coronavirus; Novel Coronavirus; the Wuhan Virus — whatever name want to use, this new virus definitely has people in a panic. Stock markets are plunging, pharmacies have run out of face masks, churches and schools are shuttered, the NBA has closed its season, and now there is even talk of cancelling the 2020 Olympics. With a little 4 year-old at home, we’re a bit anxious about this ourselves, though we are trying to keep a sort of balanced view of this. We’ve talked with numerous doctors in the U.S., France, Spain and here in Morocco over the past week. It’s probably no surprise that every doctor we’ve talked to sees this fallout as an overreaction of sorts that has been mediatized to ill effect. At this point, we know the precautions we should be taking, but we all need to be wary of the false information that is spreading. — UPDATED March 19, 2020
What is the Situation of the Coronavirus in Morocco?
First off, will do our best to keep this post updated as long as this new virus is hovering around. And if you are a client of Journey Beyond Travel, we will contact you immediately if things here change for any reason. As of now, we believe there is an urgent and pressing need for anyone to cancel travel arrangements for the next two months. Worldwide travel has become a lot more difficult with the U.S. recently restricting flights from Europe and Morocco canceling all international travel as of March 15, 2020 in efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Right now, the American Embassy is telling its citizens here in Morocco that they will likely be here indefinitely. There is currently no US or Canadian response at the government level for calls to repatriate their citizens stranded here because of the sudden border closure.
Luckily, we were able to leverage our knowledge of Morocco, contacts in the government, and general travel know-how to get all of our clients on flights back home. Unfortunately, other travelers have not been so lucky. There are numerous reports now circulating about thousands of travelers and students with study abroad programs unable to get home from Morocco and other countries. We are currently working within these communities to share what information we have and try to make getting home a reality for them.
For those still looking forward to planning Fall, Winter and 2021 trips, it’s probably best to adopt a policy of monitoring the situation at the present and to make your travel decision a bit down the road, when things calm down and you feel most comfortable. If you have already booked travel with us, again, we will work with you directly if the situation changes from September 2020 moving forward.
The World Health Organization has just declared this a pandemic sighting the deadliness of this virus and its sustained person-to-person transmission. This virus is likely to continue to spread until a vaccine or cure is identified. It is now worldwide. Morocco, for its part, is keeping very vigilant about this virus with screenings at the border and increased information gathering as to where people have traveled to recently, who they’ve been in contact with, that sort of thing. In Morocco, we have had now had 54 confirmed cases, all of whom have all been quickly quarantined. There is now evidence of community transmission.
The World Health Organization is working with Morocco to tighten up the National Plan for Monitoring and Defense against the virus. The World Health Organization is “supporting Morocco in preparing for a likely spread of the virus, by providing tests and other forms of technical support as part of implementing its national monitoring plan against the virus.”
The WHO has classified Morocco as a “moderate risk” country, and affirmed that Morocco has the technical competence needed to prevent and detect the virus. Strict measures are being taken to ensure any new suspect cases are diagnosed and immediately taken care of. All health infrastructures are mobilized.
Some Coronavirus Basics to Get You Up To Speed
Here are some basics that we’ve put together about the coronavirus, what to know, how to prevent contamination, and how it might affect your travel plans:
- Thus far, most estimates put the mortality rate of the CoViD 19 coronavirus at about a 2-3%, though this number might be much lower due to many infected people going undetected. To put this in perspective. This virus seems to be particularly deadly for smokers, people with underlying medical problems, and the elderly. Historically, this coronavirus is not nearly as fatal as other recent coronavirus outbreaks with much higher mortality rates, such as SARS (10%) and MERS (34%).
- Like in many sports, the best offense in combatting this coronavirus is a good defense! Follow basic flu prevention tips like washing your hands for 20 seconds (we have our son sing the Happy Birthday song twice). Follow the CDC’s guidance on regular hand washing. You’ll also want avoid touching your face (nose, mouth and eyes, in particular) after touching handgrips, poles, elevator buttons, doorknobs, and other commonly touched surfaces
- While traveling, you’ll want to stay 3-6 feet away from people coughing and/or sneezing. Particles will hang in the air. While flying, it’s a good idea to use sanitizer to clean the armrests and tray table as these are rarely desanitized.
- Keep up to date! The CDC keep an updated list of travel notices ranking all countries on a 1 – 4 scale with 1 being business as usual and 4 being avoid at all costs. Morocco is currently ranked as a 2 destination, though notably all global travel has been moved to a “3” designation, meaning one should avoid non-essential travel.
Should You Purchase Travel Insurance for the Coronavirus?
Even without the coronavirus, JBT recommends our travelers carry travel insurance. Just before this latest outbreak, we had a couple that had to cancel because of a last-minute medical emergency. We were relieved they had good travel insurance and were able to recoup the money they had spent on their dream trip to Morocco—a dream we will still make happen for them, but we’ve just had to postpone until a bit later in the year! For immediate travel, insurance companies have stopped selling insurance related to COVID 19 as it is a “known event,” but if you are planning travel further out (like toward the end of 2020 or for 2021), you will likely want to carry a travel insurance policy.
For full disclosure, we don’t sell travel insurance or have established partnership or anything. The following are based on recommendations from previous travelers and our own experience in purchasing travel insurance policies.
Travel Guard by AIG (https://www.travelguard.com) is a standard, straightforward insurance carrier, though perhaps not the most budget-friendly. This is perhaps best for people with pre-existing conditions or traveling with a known illness/impairment and is used by many of our clientele.
Berkshire Hathaway also has stellar coverage: https://www.bhtp.com/travel-insurance/exactcare. This is the insurance carrier we use to insure our business and often use for our own business travel.
Allianz is a comprehensive company and used by many of our travelers: https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com.
We’ve heard some really positive reviews about Seven Corners: https://www.sevencorners.com.
I just purchased a 10-day policy through World Nomads https://www.worldnomads.com for myself and our son for an upcoming holiday. Our insurance policy includes emergency medical and trip cancellation coverage for about $9 a day.
If you plan on traveling a lot this year or have many trips planned, it might make a lot of sense to get a one-year medical evacuation membership through a place like MedjetAssist or International SOS.
Final Thoughts on Traveling, In General, During this Time
If you’re reading this, you probably know I write the Moon Morocco and Marrakesh and Beyond guidebooks. What you probably don’t know is that neither one of them are what I would consider the best guidebook ever written. The absolute best guidebook ever written, without a doubt or question in my mind, has to be the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Tucked within these laugh-out-loud pages, there is a complete guidebook to the entire galaxy in which the whole of our Planet Earth — including all of its seven continents, glorious wonders, oceanic beauty, sprawling cities, remote villages, and varied cuisine — was given just two words of description: Don’t Panic.
I couldn’t think of a better way of describing how to travel around our planet. Wherever we go, whatever we do, whoever we meet, and whatever we eat, no matter how crazy things get, as long as we remember to not panic, magically things have a way of working out. Here in Morocco, we would call this maktoub—our fates are written, struggle as we might. Panicking doesn’t help, but a deep breath, a bit of acceptance, and knowing that there are things greater than us at work in the universe, can go a long way toward easing our stress and maybe giving us a few less gray hairs along the way.
So… don’t panic. We’ll be here to welcome you to Morocco when travel resumes back to its normal self and the biggest worry is where to get a good cup of coffee.
About the Author
Written by Morocco expert, award-winning author and photographer Lucas Peters. Check out his two popular guidebooks: the Moon Morocco Country Travel Guide, and city-specific, Marrakesh and Beyond. Lucas is also the editor of our award-winning blog. He lives in Tangier with his wife and son. You can find him on his website, www.lucasmpeters.com. He often posts pictures on Instagram and Facebook.