Coronavirus: Texas to lift mask mandate and lift Covid rules

Texas will lift its mask mandate and allow businesses to reopen at full capacity next week, Governor Greg Abbott has announced.

“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” the Republican said on Tuesday.

Texas is the largest US state to end its mask mandate. Mr Abbott has faced criticism from his party over the measure, which was imposed last July.

More than 42,000 people have died with Covid in Texas since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Abbott announced he was lifting of the restrictions in a speech at the Chamber of Commerce in the city of Lubbock on Tuesday.

“Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities,” he said. “Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end.”

He said that with increased vaccinations and improved treatment for Covid, the state was “in a far better position now”.

“Covid has not suddenly disappeared,” he added, “but state mandates are no longer needed.”

Mr Abbott’s new executive order, which is to take effect on 10 March, rescinds most of his earlier executive orders related to the coronavirus crisis.

What about other US states?

The US has recorded over 515,000 Covid-related deaths – far more than any other country.

But with cases and deaths falling sharply in recent weeks, several states have begun easing restrictions.

Shortly after Mr Abbott’s announcement, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he would do the same in an even shorter time frame.

“Starting tomorrow, we are lifting all of our county mask mandates and businesses will be able to operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules,” Mr Reeves said.

Health experts have warned that the pandemic was far from over and cases could pick up if curbs were lifted too soon.

US President Joe Biden – in contrast with his predecessor Donald Trump – has made fighting the virus a priority for his administration.

On Tuesday he said the US was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May.

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