Author: Kettani Law Firm
Overview of legal measures in Morocco as of March 24, 2020 as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.
In a race against time and in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Morocco, the Moroccan government gradually closed the country boarders, restricted travels between cities, officially declared, on March 24, 2020, a state of sanitary and health emergency with quarantine (although in practice, the lock down started as of March 20, 2020 at 6p.m) and adopted several measures as a response to the pandemic.
Consistent with this and seeking to manage this unprecedented crisis in an attempt to cope with its various economics fall outs, the Ministry of Economy and Finance promptly set up :
an "Economic Watch Committee" (hereinafter, the “EWC”) in order to monitor the development of the economic situation in the country as well as decide on appropriate action plans to face this ongoing crisis, and
a special account entitled "Special fund for the management of the pandemic of the Coronavirus Covid-19" (hereinafter, the “Fund”) through Ministerial decree n°2-20-269 (as published in Official Gazette n°6865 bis dated March 17, 2020) endowed with an initial amount of 10 billion Moroccan dirhams reserved, amongst other things, to upgrade the country’s health infrastructure.
Several public institutions, private sector corporations, private corporation, etc. have sent monetary and in kind contributions to the Fund in a surge of solidarity to face the economic and social effects of the pandemic.
1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
1.1 Legal basis
In Morocco, the health emergency state has been declared by decree n ° 2-20-293 dated March 24, 2020 and the duration of which has been extended by decree n ° 2-20-330 dated April 18, 2020 until June 10, 2020.
Moroccan regulations regarding entry to Morocco provide that any foreigner wishing to go to Morocco must have a passport or any other valid document recognized by the Moroccan government as a travel document (Law no° 02-03 dated November 11, 2003, relating to the entry and stay of foreigners in Morocco).
For foreign nationals whose countries are subject to visa formalities, their travel documents must be accompanied by visas issued by the Moroccan administration.
The stay in Morocco for tourist reasons is limited to three months for foreigners who are exempt from the visa and the duration of the validity of the visa for those who are subject to it.
In the event that the foreigner wishes to extend their stay on Moroccan territory beyond the period of validity of their visa or the period of three months, if they are not subject to this obligation, they are required request authorization from the competent Moroccan authority (Direction Générale de Sûreté Nationale) in order to avoid being in an irregular situation.
For foreigners who wish to exercise a remunerated professional activity, they can, in this case, apply for a registration card.
Each country's Moroccan embassy or consulate have adopted different measures in accordance with the host country's current circumstances. However, since the Moroccan air, land and maritime boarders are still closed in Morocco, the person wishing to obtain a visa must evidence the emergency nature of their request.
1.6 Open Businesses, Industries and allowed Gatherings
1.10 Persons with a higher risk
In Morocco, the population in high risk during the pandemic amounts to 8.4 million persons according to the High Commission for Planning (HCP) in a study entitled “Covid-19 Pandemic in the National Context: Situation and Scenarios”.
The Moroccan Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Green and Digital Economy established a list of the necessary commercial activities and services which must continue to offer their services and products to citizens during the period of the health emergency.
In a joint press release, the aforementioned Ministries invited all professionals to get involved and mobilize in order to ensure continuity of services and supply to the national market. Kindly find below the list of the necessary commercial activities:
> Commercial activities:
- Large and medium-sized stores;
- the wholesale markets for vegetables and fruit and the wholesale markets for fish and chicken;
- wholesale food stores;
- grocery stores and general food;
- stores selling vegetables and fruit;
- cereal stores;
- chicken shops;
- egg shops;
- fish shops;
- bakeries and pastry shops;
- stores selling olives and spices;
- stores selling dried fruit;
- stores selling detergents and toilet paper;
- stores selling medical equipment and materials;
- sanitary facilities;
- stores selling spare parts;
- stores selling fertilizers, pesticides, agricultural equipment and fodder.
- Clinics and medical offices;
- Medical analysis laboratories;
- Premises for paramedical professions;
- Premises of the liberal professions necessary;
- Bank branches;
- Insurance agencies;
- Commercial agencies of water and electricity distribution companies;
- Agencies of telecommunications companies;
- Postal agencies;
- Transfer and payment facility offices;
- Fuel distribution stations;
- Safety and health services;
- Urban transport services, passenger transport and taxis;
- Goods transport and logistics services;
- Distance selling and delivery service for food, medicines and basic necessities;
- Ambulatory, patient transfer and nursing services;
- Domestic maintenance services (electricity and plumbing);
- Repair shop for cars, motorcycles and tires;
- Agricultural equipment repair service;
- Industrial equipment maintenance service;
- Services dedicated to people with specific needs.
> Companies, factories and production and storage units, ensuring the safety of the workforce.
> Agricultural and maritime fishing activities, ensuring the safety of the workforce.
On March 14, 2020, Morocco announced the closure of all flights to and from 25 countries, extending an earlier ban that covered China, Spain, Italy, France and Algeria.
On March 15, 2020, Morocco closed its airspace for all international commercial flights, both for departure and arrival as well as allowed, for a specific period of time, the rapatriation of several persons to their chosen country.
1.3 Export control
Through a press release, the Moroccan Customs and Indirect Taxes administration informed its customers and users that, until further notice, the access to its offices is currently limited and will only be authorized in case of absolute necessity of a physical presence on the premises.
It should be reminded that many services can be performed directly online (formalities for customs goods clearance, exchanges with inspectors handling declarations, request for a certificate of origin, payment of customs claims, etc.).
Likewise, information requests or claims, can be sent directly online to the administration via electronic forms accessible through the link www.douane.gov.ma/requetes or by phone at eco number 0801.00.70.00 or the hotline 05.37.56.57.57.
In order to help curb the spread of the virus, customers and users are strongly invited to use the aforementioned services and to limit their trips to the customs offices as much as possible.
1.4 Prohibition of crowds
The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced on March 14, 2020 the ban, until further notice ,of all public gatherings in which more than 50 people take part.
Morocco is on lockdown since the declaration of the health emergency state on March 24, 2020. The lock down has been extended to June 10, 2020 by decree n ° 2-20-330 dated April 18, 2020.
1.6 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies
During its fourth meeting dated April 14, 2020, the EWC confirmed that, in terms of joint stock companies’ governance, a bill is being developed to introduce the necessary flexibility which would allow companies, during this period of health emergency, to hold remote meetings of their governing corporate bodies, particularly with regards to the closing of annual accounts. No measures has been taken with respect to limited liability companies.
The Dahir n°1-20-62 promulgating the law n°27-20 and allowing the management bodies of joint stock companies to hold general meetings by videoconference during the state of health emergency is in full force and has been published in the Official Gazette on June 1, 2
1.7 Supply of essential medical goods
In April 2020, the Moroccan Ministry of Health has received large batches of medical and sanitary equipment from China and South Korea, in order to strengthen the strategy to fight against the coronavirus.
Furthermore, based on its seven million protective masks daily production, Morocco is self-sufficient and even has a surplus. Currently, around thirty-four companies have started to manufacture non-subsidized washable cloth masks, part of which is intended for export. An operation that allows the kingdom to position itself in the global mask race.
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Industry, five of aforementioned companies are already exporting half of their production to Europe, while others will be authorized to do so in the few upcoming weeks given the number of requests from foreign countries.
1.8 Health care
For the management of cases affected by the pandemic, the government has set up 1,640 resuscitation beds. According to the Minister of Health, this capacity is sufficient, in addition to hotels, summer centers in 38 cities to receive people affected by Covid-19 in a stable state. In addition, there are spaces equipped to accommodate affected people, such as the two military hospitals located in the cities of Benslimane and Nouaceur, in addition to a temporary structure for the Casablanca Fair. In addition, private clinics have made their structures available to the Ministry of Health to receive patients.
The Moroccan Ministry of Health has also strengthened its communication and information tool on the coronavirus by launching a number dedicated to urgent medical aid "Alo, SAMU 141".
This tool is in addition to the “Allo Yakada 080 100 47 47” service, which is already operational via the National Center for Emergency Operations in Public Health (CNOUSP).
During the lockdown, any violation of the orders and decisions of the public authorities is punishable by a prison sentence of one to three months and a fine of between 300 and 1,300 MAD (approx. 30 to 130 USD), or one of the two sanctions without prejudice to any criminal penalty more severe.
2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES
The EWC has held several meetings and approved a series of specific measures subject to agreements between the government and concerned establishments (CNSS, CGEM, etc.) including:
The deferment of depreciable credits
Moroccan banks shall grant all their customers (individuals, companies), who request it, the postponement of the settlement of amortizable maturities (real estate loans and consumer loans), for a period of three (3) months, renewable once.
Specific measures concerning companies (SMC and VSC) and liberal professions in difficulty
Companies (SMC and VSC) and liberal professions in difficulty shall also benefit from:
i. A suspension of the payment of social charges until June 30, 2020;
ii. A moratorium on the reimbursement of bank loan maturities and on the reimbursement of lease maturities up to June 30th, 2020, without payment of fees or penalties;
iii. The activation of an additional operating credit line granted by the banks and guaranteed by the Caisse Centrale de Garantie (for more information, please see section “Corporate & Tax” below);
iv. The coverage of working capital needs: extension of operations in progress (Credocs, currency or spot refinancing) and appropriate responses to meet their cash flow needs; and
v. The acceleration of payments for the benefit of businesses, in particular, SMC and VSC, in order to reduce the pressure on their cash flow and allow them to fulfill their financial obligations.
Bank Al-Maghrib measures
In order to facilitate the accessibility to bank credit in favor of both businesses and households during these unparalleled times, Bank Al-Maghrib (the Moroccan central bank) has adopted a number of monetary and prudential policies allowing the (i) utilization by banks of all the available refinancing instruments (Moroccan dirham or currency), (ii) extension to a very wide range of securities and drafts accepted by the central bank in return for the refinancing granted to banks, (iii) lengthening the duration of these refinancings, and (iv) strengthening the already established specific refinancing program in favor of very small and medium companies by including operating credits and increasing the frequency of their refinancing.
Social Security Fund
The National Social Security Fund announced to all companies affiliated to the CNSS that the new version of the covid19.cnss.ma portal, which takes into account the provisions of Decree No. 2-20-331, was open starting from April 28, 2020, in order to declare their employees on total or partial suspension of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The CNSS also reminded the aforementioned companies that the flat-rate allowance, awarded to employees declared in February 2020 and on partial or total work suspension may vary as follows:
If the work suspension concerns the entire month: the employee shall be granted 100% of the monthly allowance i.e 2,000 MAD;
If the work suspension is:
i. Three-quarters (3/4) of the month: the employee shall be granted 75% of the monthly allowance i.e 1,500 MAD;
ii. Half (1/2) of the month: the employee shall be granted 50% of the monthly allowance i.e 1000 MAD;
iii. Quarter (1/4) of the month: the employee shall be granted 25% of the monthly allowance i.e. 500 MAD.
The CNSS has made available to the users a manual as well as a video tutorial describing the new procedure to follow in order to declare the concerned employees.
For more information, please visit covid19.cnss.ma.
As part of the implementation of measures decided by the EWC seeking to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and its impacts on businesses, the Ministry of the Economy, of Finance and the Reform of the Administration set up at the Caisse Centrale de Garantie (CCG), a new guarantee mechanism called "DAMANE OXYGENE".
The aforementioned mechanism aims at mobilizing financing resources for companies whose cash flow has deteriorated due to the decline in their activity. It covers 95% of the credit amount and thus allows banks to quickly set up exceptional overdrafts to finance the working capital needs of target companies.
Such bank financings, added to the already existing lines, cover up to three (3) months of current expenses related to the exploitation (in particular the wages, the rents, the necessary purchases, etc.) and can go up to 20 MMAD. With respect to companies which do not have short-term financing lines, this exceptional overdraft can reach 5 MMAD.
"DAMANE OXYGENE" is mainly intended for very small, small and medium-sized companies whose turnover does not exceed 200 MMAD. Additionally and due to the exceptional nature of the present crisis, medium-sized companies whose turnover is between 200 and 500 MMAD may benefit from such facility.
Public Market (Marché publics)
The EWC has also noted the various flexibility measures which would help companies holding contracts with the State to avoid incurring penalties due to execution delays which are not attributable to them.
3. TENANCY AND LEASE
The problem of unpaid rents is amplified by the current health context in Morocco. With tensions noted between landlords and tenants, many actors in the field call upon legal amendments to regulate the issue.
4. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
On March 16, 2020, Morocco suspended all Court hearings (with certain exceptions).
In its release dated April 3, 2020, the Moroccan Ministry of Justice mobilized a budgetary envelope to obtain and distribute preventive equipments within the various courts and judicial services for sterilization and disinfection of common areas (elevators, stairs, door handles, etc.).
Further measures also consist of the creation of a unit at the level of the central administration of the Ministry of Justice, whose mission is to monitor and support the work of the decentralized directorates and support them in terms of equipment and logistics.
In addition, in accordance with the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance's circular n°01 dated March 16, 2020, the Minister of Justice sent a note to its administrative officials ordering the adoption of a rotating presence system, without prejudice to the proper functioning of the establishment, in order to avoid overcrowding the offices and limiting the holding of meetings except in cases of extreme necessity.
In the digital field, the Moroccan Ministry of Justice has announced that, in addition to the digital services provided to users and litigants via its electronic portal www.mahakim.ma, new remote services will be created to limit travel to the courts and administrations.
5. Foreign Exchange Regulations
The Moroccan Foreign Exchange Office (FEO)
Pursuant to the provisions of the exchange regulations in Morocco, economic operators, natural or legal persons, are required to declare to the FEO their foreign commercial and financial transactions within an period of four months following the end of the year.
The FEO also established a platform named SMART (Système de Management des Autorisations, Reportings et Traitements) which allows concerned persons to submit their authorization requests online and remotely monitor the progress of its processing by entering their registration number.
The platform is available 24/7 and allows the declaration of foreign exchange transactions online.
According to our research, if one requires any further information on the various declarations and authorizations within the FEO during this time of crisis, one may contact the following e-mail address: email@example.com.
6. Data Protection
The National Commission for Data Protection (CNDP)
Declaration and authorization requests
Based on our research and after contacting the CNDP on an informal basis, it has been confirmed that declaration and authorization requests to be filed in accordance with the provisions of the law 09-08 relating to the protection of individuals with regards to the processing of personal data may, temporarily, be sent to the following e-mail addresses : firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The CNDP also informed us, verbally, that a virtual registry office will be established to which the declaration/authorization requests shall be submitted and which will automatically generate and transmit acknowledgments of receipt.
Following the implementation of a mobile application named “Contact tracing” deployed by the General Directorate of National Security (DGSN) and used to ensure that citizens comply with the containment provisions, the CNDP has created, on April 22, 2020, a special committee to study such mobile application and certified its compliance with law 09-08 relating to the protection of individuals with regards to the processing of personal data.
The CNDP decided to extend the moratorium on facial recognition to December 31, 2020.