Morocco bans British visitors due to soaring Covid rates

New Foreign Office advice calls the block on flights from the UK a “suspension for an unspecified period”

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 21 October 2021 06:14

Related: Morocco opens digital Covid vaccine centre

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High Covid infection rates in the UK have triggered a travel ban by Morocco. Direct flights between the two countries will be suspended from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

The Foreign Office is telling travellers: “The Moroccan government has announced the suspension for an unspecified period of direct flights between Morocco and the UK (and Germany and the Netherlands) with effect from midnight 20 October.”

Flights via third countries such as France and Spain are operating as normal, allowing British travellers to return.

The national airline, Royal Air Maroc, told passengers: “Following the decision of the Moroccan authorities, all flights from Morocco to the United Kingdom, Germany and Netherlands are suspended until further notice.”

The afternoon easyJet flights from London Gatwick and Manchester to Marrakesh will fly out empty to bring back British travellers before the midnight deadline.

The airline is telling passengers on the outbound departures: “We’re sorry that your flight has been cancelled.

“We have been advised of a change of regulation that affects flights from UK arriving into Morocco.

“As we’ll be unable to fly to Morocco in order to operate any return flights after today, we’ve taken the decision to cancel your flight with us today.”

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are still awaiting clarity from the Moroccan authorities as to whether we are permitted to operate repatriation flights beyond midnight today.

“As a result of this decision, we will cancel our outbound flying from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands until 30 November.

“Pending guidance from the Moroccan government we intend to fly inbound in October to offer passengers repatriation flight options.

“We are contacting all customers whose flights are cancelled with their options which include a free of charge transfer, receiving a voucher or a refund.”

The apparent travel ban comes days before the main half-term week for families in England and Wales.

Marrakesh is the key Moroccan destination for British travellers. On Monday Ryanair announced a new route from Edinburgh to the city, starting in December.

Zina Bencheikh, managing director of adventure operator Intrepid Travel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the decision would be “particularly devastating for local people in Morocco who rely on tourism for their livelihood”.

She said: “After 18 months with virtually no visitors, tourism was slowly beginning to rebound and this announcement will be yet another setback.”

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said the sudden ban was an example of why booking through a travel agent was beneficial.

“With travel restrictions continuing across the globe, they care, are there to help and will ensure you have all you need for your trip.”

Last week Abta, the travel association, said its 2022 convention will be held in Marrakesh.

According to the Our World In Data website, the rate of new Covid infections in a week per million people last Monday was 639 for the UK and 11 for Morocco – with British coronavirus rates almost 60 times higher.

In August there were concerns that Morocco could be added to the UK’s “red list”.

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