Texas closes bars and limits gatherings as outbreak spreads

Texas’ governor has ordered all bars to close and limited public gatherings to fewer than 100 people in the second attempt in as many days to snuff out a sudden spike in new coronavirus cases in the state.

The new executive order from Governor Greg Abbott, which also requires restaurants to cut their indoor dining to half capacity, comes a day after he banned elective medical procedures to free up beds to handle a wave of Covid-19 patients.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Mr Abbott said, warning that “further preventative action” may be needed. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health.”

Mr Abbott’s order comes a day after Texas recorded nearly 6,000 new cases, a one-day record for the state and the biggest increase in the US — which recorded a national record on Thursday with 42,000 new infections.

Texas’ decision to roll back its reopening measures sent jitters through Wall Street, with the benchmark S&P 500 dropping sharply after the announcement. It was nearly 2 per cent lower in morning trading.

The bar closures were to begin at noon on Friday, and the limits on restaurants take effect on Monday.

“We want this to be as limited in duration as possible. However, we can only slow the spread if everyone in Texas does their part,” added Mr Abbott, who encouraged residents to wear a mask and remain six feet apart from others in public.

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