Morocco Seeks to Attract Foreign Health Workers for Covid-19 fight

The Moroccan Ministry of Health is considering hikes in wages for health workers and tax incentives to attract foreign investors and doctors to plug shortages in the health system as it fights the pandemic and expands medical coverage.

Minister of health Khalid Ait Taleb said hospitals suffer a critical shortage of 32,000 doctors and 65,000 nurses, a number that’s hard to train rapidly due to the fact that only 1,200 doctors graduate every year.

In an effort to retain doctors in public practice and attract foreign workers, the government is considering increasing wages for health workers. In addition, it has allowed Moroccan doctors with international practice permits to work there.

To encourage foreign companies to participate in Morocco’s health care system, it has already removed some legal barriers and may offer tax incentives or state aid to those operating in underserved “medical deserts,” he explained.

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Morocco has enacted very strict restrictions against COVID-19, imposing a lockdown in 2020 and closing its border as a response to the Omicron variant. However, it also moved more quickly to introduce vaccines than its neighbours and peers.

Morocco’s daily recorded cases have soared to 7,336 on Tuesday from about 100 last month, despite its border closures and mandatory vaccination passes for public areas. Ait Taleb expects the number of cases to peak by early February and fall by March.

“It is unlikely that we go as far as restoring a full lockdown. However, further tightening of restrictive measures depends on the evolution of the pandemic,” he said.

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Morocco’s tourism sector generated $8 billion last year, or 7% of the country’s gross domestic product, but only $3.6 billion is expected this year due to the border closure.

Morocco has the highest vaccination rate in Africa. In a targeted group of 28.5 million people, 83 percent received two vaccine shots, and 19 percent received a booster shot.

Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema signed a deal with Sinopharm last year to manufacture its Coronavirus vaccine locally.

At countries following standard tests at the manufacturing facility.

Instead of making vaccines from scratch, Moroccan’s factories would initially only “fill and finish” them. 

“Then we will purchase licenses to manufacture the vaccine locally and launch research and development,” he said.

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