Apple is to close all its Apple Stores outside of China until at least March 27, in response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement on Apple’s website, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said that the “the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.

“As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.

“We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27. We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers.”

The news comes at the time that the company has reopened all 42 of its stores in Greater China (although with limited opening hours), with Cook expressing his “deep gratitude to our team in China for their determination and spirit”.

The Chinese stores started shutting in February.

Apple has recently temporarily closed its stores in Italy (17 stores) and Spain (11), but the new move closes them everywhere other than China.

One of its Santa Monica Store workers tested positive (while on leave) for COVID-19, and an Apple employee in Ireland has also caught the virus.

Previously, Apple had restricted hands-on product testing of its Watch and AirPods products in its stores.

The company also announced this week that it is changing its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to an online-only event, also due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The closure of physical stores does not affect the online Apple store.

All Apple Store hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations, noted Cook.

“We have expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 - including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.

“I want to thank our extraordinary Retail teams for their dedication to enriching our customers’ lives. We are all so grateful to you.

Apple is advising all its workers to work remotely “if their job allows” and is performing “extensive, deep cleaning” at all sites - with new health screenings and temperature checks at all offices.

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