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Texas has now officially lifted the Covid restrictions, which means from today (10 March) people will no longer have to wear masks.
Governor Greg Abbott recently announced that measures would be repealed as the number of new cases of the deadly disease fall and the rollout of the vaccine continues.
But while masks are not required, businesses such as shops and restaurants will still be allowed to demand that they be worn by customers.
Speaking about the move, Gov Abbott told KTRK: "All the metrics are moving in the right direction.
"The numbers are adequate for people to be able to go back to work, open up and get back to a sense of normalcy, especially for our kids and schools, while at the same time making sure that people do follow the best practices.
"We are still urging people to continue to wear the mask. If businesses don't feel safe opening, they should not be required to."
He added: "We no longer need government running our lives. Instead, everybody must continue to assume their own individual responsibility to take the actions that they have already mastered to make sure that they will not be contracting Covid-19."
However, earlier this week, the Houston Health Department warned that the UK variant of the virus - B.1.1.7 - had been detected in 31 of the city's 39 wastewater treatment plants.
Dr David Persse, chief medical officer for the City of Houston, said in a statement: "The prevalence of the UK variant in our wastewater shows it's actively spreading in our city.
"This is another clear indication that we must continue to mask up, practice social distancing, wash our hands, get tested and, get vaccinated when possible."
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also shared his concerns that the easing of measures had been announced at an inopportune moment.
In a statement, he said: "I am concerned about this new data on the UK strain of the virus in Houston, especially at a time when the State of Texas is easing mandates on measures proven to reduce transmission and ultimately save lives.
"Despite the mixed messaging, this is a clear indication that it is too soon to stop requiring masks in public places. I urge all Houstonians to continue masking up to protect their families and community."
There is also real concern the decision could raise tensions between those who support the mandated restrictions and those who support their removal.
The owners of Picos, a Mexican restaurant in Houston, has already felt the anger of some in the community after it decided to continue to require customers to wear masks.
Monica Richards told the Texas Tribune: "Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"It was just horrific, people don't understand unless you're in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during Covid.
"For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn't continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us."
Featured Image Credit: PA
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