SAN DIEGO – While the Omicron variant spreads across the globe, a University of California, San Diego student is pleading with the Moroccan government to make it possible to come home for the holidays.
“We’ve been looking forward to this moment and to not have it happen is quite difficult to take in,” said Khalil Mrini, a citizen of Morocco and San Diego resident. “We’re still processing. We’re not fully believing that this actually happened.”
He hasn’t seen his family for two years since the start of the pandemic. Mrini was planning to fly home for the holidays until he recently found out his flight home was canceled.
“We are still in shock, so we haven’t had time to process the news that I’m not going to be able to come back,” Mrini said. “So at this point, we’re not really able to find the courage to talk to each other.”
Currently, the U.S. is urging Americans not to travel to Morocco due to COVID-19. The Moroccan government has suspended all regular passenger flights to and from Morocco until Dec. 31, making it difficult for citizens to return home.
Local travel agent Mike Favichia said while the new Omicron variant isn’t halting most travel, parts of continental Africa are different.
“A lot of the African nations, unfortunately, do not have high vaccinations rates among their populations and so they’re trying to contain the variants as best as they can and they feel that’s really their only choice or option to prevent it from coming into their countries,” said Favichia with Balboa Travel. “Unfortunately it’s proving to be ineffective as many countries that have closed their borders have reported Omicron variants in their borders now.”
Morocco’s vaccination rate in particular is actually similar to the U.S. Mrini hopes the borders will reopen soon so he can see his family once again.
“I will be able to rebook at some point; it’s just been very frustrating,” he said. “I would have accepted if they’re saying, for example, I need to stay at a hotel at my own expense and quarantine for a week and then take another COVID test and pay for that as well. I would have accepted it, I just cannot accept that. I cannot go back to where I was born.”