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Apple Closes All Stores Outside China to Combat Coronavirus

Apple is closing all of its retail stores outside Greater China for two weeks to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Apple  (AAPL) - Get Free Report on Saturday said it was closing all of its retail stores outside of Greater China for the next two weeks in order to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus that has now enveloped much of the world.

In a letter posted on Apple’s website, CEO Tim Cook said that the “most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” which led to the decision to temporarily close the stores and move corporate employees outside of Greater China to work remotely.

The move follows an unprecedented wave of suspensions, cancellations and closures of everything from major sporting events to Broadway theater shows to retail stores, public centers and schools as businesses and individuals move to mitigate the highly contagious spread of the coronavirus, which as of Saturday had infected 147,960 and killed 5,543 globally.

Apple has nearly 460 retail locations throughout the world outside of China, including about 270 stores in the United States. Apple had earlier shuttered its stores in Italy and Spain as Europe continues to grapple with containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cook said that all hourly employees at the closed stores will continue to receive normal pay. He also said that the Cupertino, California-based technology giant has donated $15 million to fight the coronavirus, and that it would be matching employee donations two-to-one.

In a sign of potentially good news down the road, Cook said Apple’s global store closure doesn't include the company’s retail stores in Greater China.

Apple on Friday said that it has reopened all of its 42 retail stores in Greater China as restrictions limiting movement and activity of both people and businesses in the wake of the coronavirus slowly continues to ease, and more importantly as the threat of the virus itself appears to be abating.

The stores, which had been shuttered since early February amid the coronavirus outbreak, as of Friday were all fully open and operational.

Apple's move followed U.S. President Donald's Trump's declaration of a national emergency on Friday over the coronavirus pandemic.

Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Centers for Disease Control Director Anthony Fauci and a who's who of CEOs from the likes of Walmart  (WMT) - Get Free Report, Target  (TGT) - Get Free Report, CVS  (CVS) - Get Free Report, and other big companies, Trump said the national emergency declaration would open up access to up to $50 billion in financial assistance for states, localities and territories.

He also said the administration would join with the private sector to speed up testing, adding that the U.S. was in talks with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available.

On Friday, medical diagnostics giant Roche  (RHHBY)  received emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to mass-produce coronavirus test kits, which have been notably lacking on the front lines - at hospitals and in doctors' hands - even as Trump and other officials have continued to assure the public they are available to any American who needs one. 

Trump told reporters there will be a half-million additional tests available by next week, with 5 million tests available within a month, though he also said he does not advise everyone getting tested.

“We don’t want everybody taking this test. It’s totally unnecessary,” he said.