Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Apple shutting all stores outside China until March 27

Company moving to flexible work arrangements and will host annual developer conference online

The Apple Store in Milan, Italy. The Italian Government has strengthened its quarantine rules, shutting all commercial activities except for pharmacies, food shops, gas stations, tobacco stores and news kiosks in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Getty Images.
The Apple Store in Milan, Italy. The Italian Government has strengthened its quarantine rules, shutting all commercial activities except for pharmacies, food shops, gas stations, tobacco stores and news kiosks in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Getty Images.

Apple is closing all of its shops outside Greater China until March 27 and is moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide as part of measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Company employees can work remotely if their job allows while others whose roles require them to be on site should follow guidance to “maximise interpersonal space”, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Apple continues to deep clean all its sites and introduce health screenings and temperature checks.

“The most effective way to minimise risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximise social distance,” Mr Cook said in a letter posted on Apple’s website. “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we are taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.”

The US technology giant has almost 460 locations across the world outside of China, including about 270 stores in the US.

The company took similar steps in February when it shut down all of its branded stores in China, which reopened on Friday.

The move comes as the world deals with the Covid-19 pandemic that has resulted in a global death toll of more than 5,600 people and more than 150,000 cases, the World Health Organisation said.

In all of its closed offices, hourly workers will continue to receive pay and leave policies will be expanded to accommodate personal or family health circumstances resulting from Covid-19, Mr Cook said. The executive also said Apple donated $15 million (Dh55.10m) to help fight the outbreak and is matching its employee donations two to one.

Mr Cook concluded his letter by thanking “the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment”.

The outbreak, which first started in the central Hubei province of China, has hurt the US company’s operations that rely on a supply from China for most of its products. In a note last week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts suggested Apple’s first 5G-enabled phone, due for launch in September, could be delayed as a result of disruptions.

Apple said it would hold its annual conference for software developers online, scrapping a June gathering that usually brings together thousands of attendees in San Jose, California.

“There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” Mr Cook said. “We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us.”

Updated: March 14, 2020 08:39 PM

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