Texas governor orders bars to close amid surge in virus cases

Houston (AFP) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the bars to close on Friday as coronavirus cases have increased in the country's second largest state.
When Abbott introduced a series of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Texas, the chief executive of Harris County, the largest state, issued a recommendation to stay at home and raised the threat level to level 1 or "severe". "
Abbott's executive order requires bars to be closed, but may still offer delivery and take-out services.
Restaurants can stay open, but with only 50 percent internal capacity.
Outdoor gatherings with 100 or more people require the approval of the local authorities.
"As I said from the start, the state of Texas would take further measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 if the positive rate increased above 10 percent," Abbott said in a statement.
"At this point, it is clear that the increase in cases is largely due to certain types of activities, including Texans who gather in bars," he said.
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"The measures in this executive regulation are essential to our mission to rapidly contain this virus and protect public health.
"We want this to be as limited in time as possible."
Lina Hidalgo, the general manager of Harris County, which also includes the city of Houston and has more than four million people, asked residents to respect their advice at home.
"Stay home except for essential needs," said Hidalgo. "Anything that doesn't stay at home prepares us for failure.
"This pandemic is like an invisible hurricane," she said. "This is a serious situation. The outbreaks are getting worse."
She said she was raising the threat level from level 2 or "significant" to level 1 - "serious".
Texas was one of the most aggressive states when it reopened in early June after months of closure.
The Texas Department of Health reported a new record of 5,596 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a huge jump from 10 days ago when the state only had 1,254 new cases a day.
Abbott is an ally of Donald Trump, but his recent announcement stands in stark contrast to the president who tried to signal that the virus crisis is largely over.

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