Apple to close all stores outside of China until March 27

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, at the 2019 DreamForce conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Nov. 19, 2019.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple said it will close all of its stores outside of Greater China until March 27 to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading.

The iPhone maker’s online store will remain open as well as its “Apple Store” app.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company had learnt lessons from the outbreak in China and that is why it is taking these steps.

“One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Cook wrote in a blog post late on Friday. “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.”

Apple’s move follows similar steps it took in China in early February when it said it would temporarily shut down all its stores in mainland China through Feb. 9 because of the coronavirus.

After that it took a while for stores to reopen. By Mar. 13, all of its mainland China stores had re-opened but with limited operating hours. China is a critical market for Apple and its business has been hurt because of the epidemic.

The U.S. technology giant said all of its offices outside of Greater China will move to “flexible working arrangements” —which means team members “should work remotely if their job allows, and those whose work requires them to be on site should follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space.”

Deep cleaning will continue at all of Apple’s office locations and Cook said the firm is rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks.

In addition, all hourly workers will “continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations.”

Apple has also changed its leave policy to “to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19,” Cook said. That could include recovering from the virus or caring for a sick loved one, he added.

The iPhone-maker warned that it would not meet the already wider-than-usual revenue guidance it gave for the March quarter of $63 billion to $67 billion.

The coronavirus outbreak has now spread globally with a large number of cases in Europe and the U.S.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on Wednesday and on Friday, WHO said that Europe had become the virus’s new epicenter.

Cook did not give an outline of what kind of revenue or profit hit the company could take as a result of the latest decision to temporarily close stores outside China.

The Americas and Europe are Apple’s two largest regions, accounting for around 70% of the company’s net sales.

Apple’s decision to tell people to work from home comes after major technology firms including Twitter, Google and Amazon have issued similar suggestions.

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