Moroccans and Quarantine: General satisfaction and cautious optimism
This study presents the Moroccan citizens’ assessment of the actions and measures taken by the government during the quarantine that started on March 20th, 2020 and lasted for three full months. This survey is the second edition of surveys executed by the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis. The aim both surveys is to keep pace with Moroccan citizens ’perceptions of the government actions to deal with coronavirus, and measuring their satisfaction with these decisions.
The results of the current survey show that the three months that Moroccan citizens spent in quarantine had some negative psychological effects on them, which made them unprepared for another quarantine period, as more than half of the interviewed people (53%) said they were not prepared for a second quarantine even if the virus spreads even further; whereas only about 46 % of the participants favor this measure. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the respondents do not believe that the rest of the citizens will adhere to safety and precautionary measures to roll and cope with the coronavirus for a longer period, while only 33% say that they relatively believe that Moroccan citizens will adhere to safety and precautionary measures for a longer period and only 2% of the respondents strongly believe that.
The study shows a remarkable decline, between March and July, at the level of following up on the development of the coronavirus; as only 11% said that they were constantly following the developments and updates during July, while it was around 48% back in March. The percentage of those who do not follow the Covid-19 related news at all increased from 1% in March to 14% in July 2020, which explains the degree of laxity of many citizens and their lack of adherence to the recommended preventive measures. This may contribute to increasing the number of infected people in the coming weeks.
As for the measures recommended by the government, 53% of the respondents are committed to using sanitizers, only 46% avoid leaving their houses unless it is necessary, only 59% are committed to social distancing, 71% are committed to wearing the mask, and 72% are committed to washing hands several times a day. Failure to adhere to these measures would double the number of positive cases within days only.
On June 20th, 2020, the Moroccan government declared the initiation of easing the quarantine restrictions and keeping the health emergency starting from June 24th, and it has reduced most of the preventive measures that it has taken since the beginning of March 2020 to respond to the spread of the virus in the country. The government has taken a set of measures including dividing the country into two zones (Zone 1 and Zone 2) according to the degree of outbreak of the epidemic, and re-imposing quarantine, in part or in full, for a number of regions. In light of this development, the government began lifting the restrictions it had previously imposed, mainly restricting the mobility of citizens and deploying security forces to ensure compliance with these measures, closing schools, cafes, restaurants and mosques, banning mass gatherings and inter-cities travel, as well as banning parties and family celebrations etc.
The decision to ease quarantine restrictions can be explained by the damage done to the main economic sectors in the country, despite the increasing spread of the virus among citizens, which prompted the authorities in Morocco to take the decision to gradually lift the quarantine after three months. This concerns a gradual opening of the economy and easing quarantine restrictions while trying to cope with the spread of the virus in the country.
The Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis executed this survey to understand and evaluate citizens’ perceptions of government measures during the three-month quarantine. This study represents a continuation of the Institute’s efforts to track and monitor the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, politics and society; as the first edition of the field study was completed in mid-March, while the second survey was completed in July 2020. Both surveys aim to provide statistical data on the perceptions of citizens about this pandemic, and find out the degree of their satisfaction with the government measures that have been taken to confront its social impacts.
The coronavirus continues to spread in the country, and even more quickly after lifting the quarantine. By surveying citizens during the first three months of the spread of the pandemic and imposing quarantine, we seek to present a study that helps decision makers to understand the degree of citizens’ satisfaction with the measures they have taken and to correct what needs to be corrected in order to confront this pandemic from an evidence based approach.
The survey adopted a quantitative research method through the use of self-filling questionnaire via the internet through the use of Qualtrics software, which is a program intended for online surveys. The questionnaires were filled out by the respondents between 8 and 23 July 2020, and they were sent to the institute’s database (which includes about 1500 people including researchers, experts, decision makers and civil society activists), in addition to sharing them through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, to ensure a representative geographical distribution of the respondents participating in the survey.
The sample included 1100 persons representing the Moroccan population aged 18 years or over. Quotas method (gender, age and geographic region) was adopted to ensure sample balance. The study sought to ensure a broad representation of the population by taking into account the data provided by the general population census carried out by the High Commissioner for Panning (HCP 2014).
A number of precautions have been taken to ensure the reliability and credibility of the answers and the diversity of the sample in the study, inter alia, not allowing the questionnaire to be filled out more than once using the same device or e-mail. It was also confirmed that the forms were filled out by people, in order to avoid having answers filled out by Botnet machines. This issue has already been verified by looking at the IP addresses of the respondents. Finally, the participants were asked to write their emails (voluntarily) in case they wanted to receive the survey results later.
With regard to the distribution of the sample by gender, about half of the participants were females. As for the age, the age group of 15-24 years constitutes about a quarter of the participants, and the same for the 25-34 years’ age group. The age group of 35-44 years constitutes about 22%, whereas the age group of 45-59 years is about 20%. People over the age of 60 represent about 7% of the sample. As for the geographical distribution, about 16% of the sample was from Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region, 18% from Casablanca-Settat, 10% from Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima, 9% from Souss-Massa, 14% from Fez-Meknes, 12% from Marrakesh-Safi, and 8% from the Orient region, while the rest of the sample was distributed among other regions of the Kingdom.
About 27% of the respondents work in the public sector, while 21% work in the private sector, 23% are students, whereas 8% are unemployed. Housewives are about 9%, and retirees are 6% of the sample. As for the educational level, about 68% of the respondents have a university level (Bachelor), 21% have high school education level, and 5% are in vocational training.
The structure of the sample
Figure 1: Distribution of the respondents according to gender
Figure 2: Distribution of the respondents according to age
Figure 3: Distribution of respondents according to geographic regions
The economic impacts of COVID-19 are the most important finding that cannot be overlooked in any analysis. The same applies to state budgets as well as household incomes. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, about 589,000 people lost their jobs during this period, and about 5 million people received subsidies from the government, about 3 million of them under the RAMED program and 2 million are registered with the Social Security Fund.
The survey findings showed that 40% of the respondents have an income between 3000 and 8000 dirhams, while 32% stated that their income is less than 3000 dirhams. 21% said their income ranges between 8,000 and 15,000 dirhams, 4% have an income between 15,000 and 30,000 dirhams, and 2% have an income of more than 30,000 dirhams.
Regarding the change in the respondents’ monthly incomes during the three months of quarantine, 46% of them said that their income remained the same, while 31% said that their income decreased significantly and 21% said it decreased relatively, while only 1% said that their income increased significantly.
Just as quarantine affects the monthly income, it also affects household spending, as 27% of respondents said that their monthly spending rate has not changed, and a quarter of the sample said that the spending rate increased relatively, while another quarter said that it decreased relatively. On the other hand, 11% confirmed that their average spending rate has decreased significantly, and 13% said that their spending rate has increased significantly.
At first glance, it seems that the quarantine conditions would reduce household spending and would lead to more saving in some social classes, especially the middle and rich class with stable incomes, considering that spending during quarantine would decrease due to the closing of most shops and shopping centers and limiting mobility in cars and transportation, consequently, spending rates decrease and savings rise. However, the findings of this survey show that saving rates have not dramatically changed, as only 4% confirm that their savings have increased significantly, 14% said their savings have increased relatively, 33% said that their savings have decreased significantly, and 21% said that their savings have decreased; which constitutes half of the sample participating in the survey. Whereas 28% said their saving rate remained the same during this period.
Figure 4: Monthly income before the outbreak of coronavirus
Figure 5: Increase or decrease in monthly income since the outbreak of coronavirus
Figure 6: Increase or decrease in monthly spending since the outbreak of coronavirus
Figure 7: Increase or decrease in monthly saving since the outbreak of coronavirus
The issue of health coverage is one of the economic problems that Morocco suffers from. Only half of Moroccans out of the total active population of 26 million benefit from health coverage. According to the results of this survey, 65% of the respondents benefit from health coverage and 35% do not. Among the latter category, 76% think of getting health coverage in the future, and 8% do not think about getting it.
Figure 8: Benefitting from health coverage
Figure 9: Thinking about getting health coverage in the future
This section is devoted to personal concerns about getting infected with coronavirus, as well as the participants’ perceptions of the extent of citizens’ commitment to safety and prevention standards to cope with coronavirus for a longer period. The findings of the first edition of the survey showed that during the beginning of quarantine, citizens were following coronavirus related news, as 48% of the participants said that they constantly follow the news about the spread of the virus, while 44% said that they follow the latest developments on a daily basis. On the other hand, only 1% of the participants do not follow-up on this matter, and 7% said that they do follow the news intermittently. In July, this percentage has decreased. The results of the current survey show that 14% of the respondents gave up following the news about the spread of coronavirus, and 40% follow it sometimes only, whereas only 11% follow it constantly, and 35% follow it on a daily basis.
It seems that the three months that Moroccans spent in quarantine had negative psychological effects on them, which made them unprepared for another quarantine period, as more than half of the interviewed (54%) said they were not prepared for a second quarantine even if the virus spreads further. About 46% (16% (very prepared) and 30% (prepared)) favor this measure. However, two-thirds of the respondents do not believe that the rest of the citizens will adhere to safety and prevention standards to cope with coronavirus for a longer period (46% do not believe, 19% do not believe at all). While 33% relatively believe this, and only 2% of the respondents believe this strongly.
Figure 10: The degree of follow-up on developments in the spread of the Coronavirus
Figure 11: Perceptions about the adherence of Moroccan citizens to safety and prevention standards to cope with coronavirus for a longer period
Figure 12: Psychological and financial readiness for a second quarantine if the spread of coronavirus further prevails
Since the announcement of the first cases of Coronavirus, the Moroccan government has been communicating extensively and continuously on this matter. It worked to provide basic and necessary information, and it also created a few TV programs to raise awareness. This communication method has been praised by citizens and local and international media. However, this did not continue at the same pace and its mode changed with time during the quarantine, due to replacing the persons who used to communicate with citizens through the public media. As well as confusion and delay in providing timely, accurate and complete information to citizens at crucial moments. The authors of the questionnaire are aware of the importance of obtaining the right information as one of the effective ways to prevent this virus, hence this questionnaire devoted a section to finding out the sources that citizens resort to in order to obtain news and information about the epidemiological situation in Morocco.
The findings of the first wave of the survey done in March, 91% of the respondents tried to obtain information about the coronavirus during the past days, and 88% of all respondents said that they used the internet to obtain information, and 68% followed the instructions of the Moroccan Ministry of Health.
In the current survey (July), 67% of the respondents confirmed that they rely on social media to follow the developments of the epidemic situation, while 52% of the Moroccans interviewed said that they follow national TV channels to obtain information about this matter, and 14% follow foreign TV channels for the same purpose. 42% of the respondents use the internet as a source of information, 34% follow the Ministry of Health’s instructions through its data, 10% rely on family and friends, and 3% on the help of doctors and pharmacists.
Figure 13: Approved sources of information for following news of the coronavirus
On the other hand, questions were raised regarding the precautions and safety measures taken by citizens to avoid infection with coronavirus, and these precautions include washing hands several times a day, avoiding leaving the house, wearing a mask, using sanitizers and social distancing.
In this context, it appears that the citizens ’commitment to these precautions did not change much between March and July. In March, 97% of respondents said that they committed to washing their hands several times a day, 82% avoided leaving the house unless it is necessary, and only 12% confirmed that they wear a mask. In July, 97% said that they wash their hands several times a day (72% regularly and 24% sometimes), while 5% of the respondents dropped this definitively.
As for leaving the house unless it is necessary, 81% of the participants are still committed to it (47% consistently and 34% sometimes); however, 21% said they did not adhere to that after the quarantine was lifted. 71% of the respondents stated that they always wear a mask; in contrast, 6% are not committed to always wearing a mask, whereas 21% do wear a mask sometimes. 53% stated that they use sanitizers on an ongoing basis, as opposed to 15% who do not adhere to that, and 32% who do this only occasionally. As for social distancing, 59% of the respondents said that they still always keep social distance, 31% keep their social distance only sometimes, and 10% do not respect social distancing.
There is no difference between men and women regarding compliance to these procedures, except for avoiding leaving the house, where 58% of women said that they always comply with this, compared to 31.7% of men. The same goes for social distancing, where 65.5 % of women said they are committed to keeping the social distance at all times, compared to 50% for men. In general, the rates of women’s continuous compliance with these measures were higher than men’s rates.
Worrying about the spread of the virus may not mean that citizens do not have plans about about traveling, especially after the long period they spent in quarantine, followed by the end of the school year and the summer vacation. However, the majority of the respondents, who account for 59% of the sample, said that they do not intend to travel, whereas 38% said that they intend to travel within Morocco and only 3% outside Morocco for their summer vacation, and this despite the fact that Morocco’s borders are still closed and travel is limited only to necessary cases and not for tourism.
Figure 14: Precautions for preventing coronavirus
Figure 15: Having a summer vacation travel program
This section is devoted to finding out the opinions of citizens about the actions and measures taken by the Moroccan government during the past months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and this includes the extent of trust in government measures taken on the health and economic level, as well as the degree of citizens’ satisfaction with official communication on this issue.
As for the government communication during quarantine, participants were asked about their satisfaction with government communication during this period, as well as the communication of the public media. According to the results of the survey, 64% of the respondents expressed their satisfaction with government communication, while 36% expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts in this regard, 12% of them said they are completely dissatisfied with the government’s work in terms of communicating with citizens.
In this context, there is a slight decline in satisfaction with government actions between March and July; in March, 77% of the respondents were satisfied with the measures taken by the government to confront the coronavirus, while 18% said they were not satisfied with them, and 5% said they were completely dissatisfied with the government’s work and measures taken during this period.
Figure 16: Degree of satisfaction with government actions in March and July
Concerning the role of public media in communicating about the coronavirus, the percentage of satisfaction remained relatively stable between March and July. In March, 66% of citizens expressed satisfaction with this communication during the crisis, and 18% were very satisfied with the Moroccan public media service. 28% expressed their dissatisfaction with the media during that period, and 6% were completely dissatisfied with it. In July, the percentage increased slightly, as 70% of citizens expressed their satisfaction with public media communication, as 18% said they are very satisfied with the Moroccan public media, and 52% said they are somewhat satisfied. In contrast, 30% expressed their dissatisfaction with the media during this time, with 8% saying that they are completely dissatisfied.
Figure 17: The communication of the public media
Figure 18: The communication of the Moroccan government regarding the coronavirus
Figure 19: The communication of the Moroccan public media regarding the coronavirus
Since declaring the health emergency on March 20th, the government has taken a set of measures to protect citizens’ health as well as social classes affected by the pandemic. For the health-related procedures, the government imposed quarantine, took care of infected people in public hospitals, and worked to increase the number of tests performed on a daily basis. Economically, the government sacrificed economic activity by shutting down the economy in order to avoid any rapid development of the epidemic situation. The government also comprehensively restricted the mobility of citizens by banning movement between cities and even within cities, in which movement is permitted only for those with a permit.
Regarding the satisfaction of citizens with the health-related measures taken by the government, 87% of respondents expressed their satisfaction with the imposition of quarantine, among whom 61% are very satisfied, while only 5% are completely dissatisfied. Concerning taking care of the affected people, 85% of the participants expressed their satisfaction with this matter, 14% are not satisfied with it, and 10% are completely dissatisfied.
Figure 20: Satisfaction with the measures taken by the government to confront the coronavirus
One of the major issues during this time is the ability of the health authorities to conduct medical quick and sufficient tests to control all positive cases, and with regard to government measures in this matter, 74% said that they are satisfied with the government’s testing capacity, but only 36% are very satisfied, which is the lowest rate of the “very satisfied” among the four options mentioned in the questionnaire. However, 6% of the respondents expressed their total dissatisfaction with the number of tests conducted and the government’s policy of conducting them, whereas 20% are dissatisfied with this policy.
When it comes to the citizens ’evaluation of the government’s policy of taking care of the infected people, 85% of the citizens surveyed are satisfied with the government’s work in this regard and 47% of them are very satisfied, whereas a minority of 5% is completely dissatisfied.
During this period, the government purchased medical devices to support the healthcare system that was not equipped to deal with such health crises. In this respect, 92% of the respondents are satisfied with this action, of whom 64% expressed their great satisfaction, which is the highest degree of satisfaction compared to the other three. On the other hand, only 2% are completely dissatisfied with this action.
Figure 21: Satisfaction with the health-related measures taken by the government
In general, the Moroccan public opinion has expressed a high level of satisfaction with the government economic measures that have been adopted to counter the impacts of the coronavirus; as 93% of respondents expressed their satisfaction with the creation of the special fund dedicated to managing the coronavirus pandemic, 74% said they were very satisfied, and only 2% expressed their dissatisfaction with this action. With regard to family support, 86% of respondents support it, compared with only 5% who are not satisfied with it. Likewise, 88% said they are satisfied with supporting the employees registered with the National Social Security Fund, compared to 4% who are not satisfied with that.
Figure 22: Satisfaction with the government economic measures
The rates of dissatisfaction remain somewhat high with regard to deducting part of the salaries of public sector employees and keeping some factories open during the quarantine. Regarding the deduction of employees’ salaries for the benefit of the coronavirus fund, 16% of citizens expressed complete dissatisfaction and 17% expressed dissatisfaction with this measure, in contrast, 34% said they were somewhat satisfied, and 34% said they were very satisfied with this measure. Regarding the factories that have been operating during the economic shutdown, which have formed hotbeds of the epidemic in some cities, especially Casablanca, Tangier, and Kenitra, 40% said they are very satisfied with that, and 34% said they are somewhat satisfied with this measure.
The reopening of the economy after the quarantine was met with great satisfaction, as 87% of the respondents said they were satisfied with the reopening, 48% of whom said they were very satisfied and only 3% expressed their total dissatisfaction.
Figure 23: Support for the measures aiming to prevent coronavirus
After the first confirmed cases of COVID-19, the Moroccan government has gradually taken a set of preventive measures, some of which were lifted after the quarantine was eased, and some others are still in operation within the framework of the health emergency that was extended until September 10th, 2020. Moroccan citizens have expressed their “total agreement” with these decisions, ranging from 93% for banning mass gatherings, 92% for banning travel from and to Morocco, 76% for closing cafes, and 70% for suspending public and private schools. The lowest rate recorded is related to people’s agreement with suspending the Friday and congregational prayers in mosques. The opposition to these measures does not exceed 3%, except for closing mosques; where 9% said they oppose to that and 9% completely oppose.
There is no significant difference between the perceptions of men and women regarding agreeing with these measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the country over the past months. Overall, there is slightly larger support among women versus men; however, the rates are not very different (results according to gender in the appendices).
There are some exceptions, like agreeing to suspend school, where 73% of women said they strongly believe that this helped to limit the spread of the virus, compared to 66% of men. The same applies to travel from and to Morocco, where 84% of women strongly agree that this was necessary in order to limit the spread of the virus, compared to 77% of men. The most significant difference in opinion between both genders is regarding the role of closing cafes in limiting the spread of the virus, as 85% of women said they strongly agree, compared to only 70% of men.
Figure 24: Supporting preventive measures
Figure 25: Supporting the continuation of Covid-19 precautionary measures
After evaluating the Moroccan citizens ’perception of the government measures, the questionnaire asked questions about their support for some of these measures that had been previously taken in the past during quarantine period. It is noticed, that a large percentage of 88% still supports preventing mass gatherings, while 79% support opening mosques while maintaining social distance, 75% support banning travel from and to Morocco, and 73% support suspending public and private schools. The ban on inter-city travel is one of the measures that the largest percentage of respondents oppose, with 31% saying they oppose this measure, while 15% say they strongly oppose it.
There are some differences in the perception of these measures according to the citizen’s gender. Regarding preventing inter-city travel, 33% of women said they strongly support it compared to 19% of men, and 27% of women also said they oppose this measure compared to 35% of men, which means that men are more opposed to inter-city travel ban than women. The same applies to banning large gatherings, which is strongly supported by women, as 74% of them strongly support this compared to only 55% of men.
In general, there are close levels of support among both genders for these measures and stronger support among women than men; the degree of support is not much different, though. (Detailed results according to gender are in the appendices).
Citizens’ confidence in the government’s ability to face various challenges is an important element for the authorities to manage crises. The more the citizens trust government and its ability to meet the challenges, the more willing they are to show cooperation and support.
Within this context, there is some stability in the level of trust in the government’s ability to confront the virus; as the ratio did not change much between March and July. In March, 58% of Moroccans said they trusted the government’s ability to respond to the virus (15% completely trust it and 43% trust it) compared to 42% who did not trust it (33% did not trust and 9% did not trust at all in its ability to respond to the virus). In July, 61% of Moroccans said they trust the government’s ability to respond to coronavirus in the future, (14% fully trust, 47% trust) and 39% said they do not trust the government’s ability to meet this challenge (9% do not trust at all, 29% do not trust).
It should be noted that this study was completed before the Eid al-Adha period, which witnessed a significant increase in the number of positive cases, and confusion at the level of government decisions that prevented inter-cities travel, just few days before Eid al-Adha, which created turmoil among citizens and doubts about authorities’ ability to control the spread of the pandemic.
However, it can be said that these findings generally express cautious optimism among citizens about the government’s ability to cope with the overall repercussions of the virus, despite their satisfaction with most of the measures taken so far, they still doubt the ability to keep the epidemic under control. There appears to be a convergence between both genders regarding their confidence in the government’s ability to respond to the coronavirus in the coming months, except for those who do not trust its ability to do so: 33% of men and 24% of women.
Figure 26: Confidence in the government’s ability to cope with the repercussions of the Coronavirus
Dr. Mohammed Masbah, director of the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis and associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House. He worked previously as a non-resident researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. He is a researcher in politics and sociology whose work focuses on authoritarianism, youth movements, and political Islam, with emphasis on North Africa. Dr. Masbah holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Mohamed V in Rabat.
Dr. Rachid Aourraz, a senior researcher at the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, and a Moroccan economic researcher specializing in the impact of education, economic, political and social institutions on economic dynamism. He conducted studies and wrote articles for a number of local and Arab newspapers, and contributed to discussions on Moroccan and Arab channels, as well as contributed to translating a number of publications in recent years. Dr. Rachid Aourraz holds a PhD in Applied Economics from Ibn Zohr University in Agadir.