Apple CEO Tim Cook sent out a statement in the early hours of Saturday morning detailing Apple's worldwide response to COVID-19. Among the steps taken is news that the company will close its retail stores worldwide until March 27th. The only exception is Greater China, which includes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, where the company yesterday reopened stores that had closed on February 2nd. Stores already closed in Italy and Spain due to the pandemic will remain closed.
On Friday morning Apple announced its spring WWDC developer event would go online-only, and Cook said that "In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China." For the affected workers, "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."
In our workplaces and communities, we must do all we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Apple will be temporarily closing all stores outside of Greater China until March 27 and committing $15M to help with worldwide recovery. https://t.co/ArdMA43cFJ— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 14, 2020
As far as why the company would take drastic steps, Cook cited lessons learned as coronavirus initially spread in China. "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."
In its Apple News app, the company is setting up a dedicated section for information from trusted outlets, and Cook said that while stores are closed customers should use the Apple website for service and support.