Positive tests among returning travellers from Morocco rise rapidly

Positive tests among returning travellers from Morocco rise rapidly
Marrakech. Photo from Canva

While the test positivity rate among travellers returning from red zones dropped from 4.9% to 2.9% since the beginning of July, 7.5% of people returning from Morocco now test positive for Covid-19, according to official figures.

At the beginning of July, the infection rate among those returning from Spain was the highest with 7% testing positive - primarily due to young people going on party holidays. But the highest percentage of infected returnees are now coming from Morocco, according to the latest report by the Sciensano national health institute.

"People who travel there now are likely not making the standard trip," biostatistician Geert Molenberghs told Het Belang van Limburg. "Many are finally going to visit family: something that, in most cases, they have had to put off for a year. Hugs and close contact are part of that."

In the first week of July, only 0.9% of those returning from Morocco tested positive, but the number has been rising since then, even as most other countries showed a decreasing trend.

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Based on the latest figures from 1 August, 2.2% of travellers returning from Spain test positive, similar to the 2.3% of those coming from Turkey, and 1.7% from Portugal. For travellers coming back from France, the percentage drops to 0.9%, and even to 0.3% for the Netherlands.

However, the increase in the number of positive tests among travellers returning from Morocco seems to be in line with the increase in infections in the country itself, which is currently coloured red on Belgium's coronavirus map.

An average of almost 10,000 daily infections is recorded in Morocco, compared to roughly 500 per day on 1 July, with about one in five people testing positive in the country, Molenberghs pointed out.

"And at the same time, they have a very low vaccination rate," he said, referring to the roughly 30% of Moroccans who are fully vaccinated. "That means that travellers are more likely to become infected."

As Morocco is not an EU country, returning travellers have to get tested upon arrival in Belgium, even if they are fully vaccinated. Those who are not fully vaccinated have to quarantine for ten days upon arrival, and be tested on day 1 and 7.

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