All Apple stores outside of China are being closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Tim Cook announced late Friday.
The move is driven by lessons learned during the spread of the disease 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,” Cook wrote in a letter to customers and employees.
The retail stores will be closed until March 27. Online stores will remain open.
Employees working at Apple offices were told to work from home if their job allows. If it doesn’t they should follow guidance on how to prevent spread of the new coronavirus, including maintaining six feet distance between themselves and other people.
All stores inside China have re-opened, according to Cook.
“Though the rate of infections has dramatically declined, we know COVID-19’s effects are still being strongly felt. I want to express my deep gratitude to our team in China for their determination and spirit,” he wrote.
The new virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, started in Wuhan, China, last year before spreading around the world. The number of worldwide infections was nearing 150,000 on Saturday, according to a tracker run by Johns Hopkins University, with over 5,500 deaths.
The Chinese Communist Party regularly distorts information and internal documents obtained by The Epoch Times indicate Chinese officials have repeatedly promulgated inaccurate information about virus spread in the country.
The country with the second highest death toll is Italy, followed by Iran.
Tens of thousands of people around the world have recovered from COVID-19, which has no proven treatment or vaccine. The mortality rate differs from country to country. The World Health Organization said the worldwide rate is 3.4 percent but many experts believe it’s lower due to asymptomatic cases that aren’t being counted due to non-detection.
The virus manifests similarly to the flu, with symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Experts say ways to avoid contracting the illness includes avoiding sick people, cleaning surfaces and objects regularly, and washing hands frequently, especially before eating.