Texas to require face coverings in public spaces


Houston (AFP)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican and ally of US President Donald Trump, on Thursday issued an executive order requiring face coverings in public spaces as the state marks record numbers of new infections.

The order, issued ahead of the July 4 holiday weekend, applies to counties with 20 or more confirmed COVID-19 cases, Abbott's office said in statement.

The governor also banned gatherings of more than 10 people, and mandated social distancing of six feet (two meters).

"We have the ability to keep businesses open and move our economy forward so that Texans can continue to earn a paycheck, but it requires each of us to do our part to protect one another -- and that means wearing a face covering in public spaces," Abbott said, citing the effectiveness of masks in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

"Restricting the size of group gatherings will strengthen Texas' ability to corral this virus and keep Texans safe," he said.

Abbott's orders came after the situation in Houston, America's fourth-largest city, sharply declined in the past two weeks.

Texas on Wednesday reported a record 8,076 coronavirus cases in 24 hours, 1,000 more than the record high a day earlier.

Overall, Texas has recorded more than 175,000 coronavirus cases.

Abbott's orders came as many Republican officials, who were initially lukewarm about the importance of wearing masks, begin publicly calling for face coverings as the United States sees soaring numbers of new infections.