March 15, 2020 / 8:06 PM / 20 days ago

Morocco to create $1 billion fund to counter coronavirus outbreak

RABAT (Reuters) - Morocco’s King Mohammed VI ordered the creation of a 10 billion dirham ($1 billion) fund to upgrade health infrastructure and help vulnerable economic sectors in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the royal cabinet said on Sunday.

The fund will help acquire the necessary health equipment and assist sectors such as tourism as well as help maintain jobs and mitigate the pandemic’s social repercussions, a royal cabinet statement said.

Morocco, which confirmed 28 coronavirus cases, suspended all international passenger flights, closed schools and canceled all events and gatherings of more than 50 people.

The global pandemic has taken a toll on Morocco’s tourism sector, a key source of hard currency flow for the country accounting for 10% of its gross domestic product.

Morocco attracted 13 million tourists in 2019, up 5.2% from a year earlier.

Other countries in the region have taken similar measures to support their economies. Central banks in Egypt and Saudi Arabia said on Sunday they were ready to intervene if necessary, as Gulf Arab states tightened travel and social curbs to contain the spread of the infection.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Alexander Smith, Editing by William Maclean

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