Morocco keeps flying to Ebola-hit states in 'solidarity'

Guillaume Klein
AFP
File picture shows the tailfin of a Royal Air Maroc plane after arriving in Casablanca from Bordeaux in France on June 25, 2004
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File picture shows the tailfin of a Royal Air Maroc plane after arriving in Casablanca from Bordeaux in France on June 25, 2004 (AFP Photo/)

Rabat (AFP) - Morocco, the last country to maintain regular scheduled flights to Ebola-hit nations after Air France halted departures, is carrying on through "solidarity", an airline official has said.

In a bid to stop the spread of the virus that has killed more than 1,500 people across West Africa, many African governments have sought to ring-fence Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

On Friday, Senegal became the fifth country in the region to be affected, confirming its first case of the deadly virus for which there is currently no cure. Nigeria is the other.

This week, after Air France announced it would stop flying to Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was "absolutely vital" that airlines resume flights because bans were hindering the emergency response.

The French carrier's move followed a similar decision by British Airways which said it was stopping its flights to Freetown and Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, until next year.

Royal Air Maroc is keeping up its regular dozen flights a week to the three worst hit countries after the death toll from the world's worst Ebola outbreak reached 1,552 this week.

Brussels Airlines currently offers an irregular schedule.

"This step is through solidarity and is not commercial, reflecting the kingdom's constant commitment to Africa," RAM spokesman Hakim Challot told AFP.


- Profitless flights -


There is no profit currently in the flights, with departures from Casablanca, Morocco's commercial centre, no more than 10 percent full, he told AFP.

The Rabat government, while ensuring all health precautions are taken, aims to promote its standing with "brother countries", official TAP news agency reported.

On Thursday, WHO emergency chief Bruce Aylward call for airlines to resume their flights to the Ebola-stricken nations.

"Right now there is a super risk of the response effort being choked off because we simply cannot get enough seats on enough airplanes to get people in and out, and get goods and supplies in," he said.

"We assume that the current restrictions on airlines will stop within the next couple of weeks. This is absolutely vital," he added.

The UN envoy on Ebola David Nabarro also criticised airlines for scrapping flights, warning that the Ebola-hit countries faced increased isolation.

Morocco's "solidarity" isn't restricted to the continuing flights.

It is due to host the African Cup of Nations in January and has agreed to stage a qualifying match on September 5 between Guinea and Togo, switched because of the Ebola outbreak.

This goodwill comes a few months after Morocco launched a "new migration policy" partly aimed at responding to allegations of bad treatment of clandestine African residents.

King Mohammed visited Mali, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gabon during a tour in February and March.

He has signed many economic and political agreements with these countries.