The latest coronavirus hit to the tech world is in the form of all of Apple retail stores closing until further notice, except for those in Greater China. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement on Saturday on the company’s website.

At first, when Cook first announced the closure on March 14, the stores were due to close until March 27. But on March 17 the Apple website changed to state that the stores were closing “until further notice.”

In a statement, Cook said that the company’s stores in Greater China, which is typically considered the area that includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. The Greater China stores are reopening today, as the rate of COVID-19 infections have “dramatically declined” there, according to Cook. He said that the operations team and partners have learned best practices for a global response.

SEE: Coronavirus having major effect on tech industry beyond supply chain delays (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

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

As a result, all Apple retail stores outside of Greater China will close until further notice and customers can shop online at or via the Apple Store app.

According to the store count on the Apple website, Apple operates 271 retail stores in the US, and, outside of Greater China, 139 throughout the rest of the world, in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and Sweden. In the area that makes up Greater China, there are 42 Apple retail stores in mainland China, six in Hong Kong, two in Macao and two in Taiwan.

Remote work options for Apple employees

All Apple employees, except those in Greater China, will have flexible work options. “That 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. Extensive, deep cleaning will continue at all sites. In all our offices, we are rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks,” Cook said.

SEE: Managing remote workers: A business leader’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations. 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,” Cook said.

This follows last week’s announcement that Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June will be held in an online format this year.

This story was updated on March 17, 2020.

The Apple store in Hong Kong on March 1, 2020.
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