Apple shuts reopened US shops as Covid-19 cases continue to rise

Company reopened more than 100 outlets outside Greater China in May, but 90 US shops remain closed as virus spreads

A worker sprays disinfectant outside the new Apple flagship store in Beijing. Reuters 
A worker sprays disinfectant outside the new Apple flagship store in Beijing. Reuters 

Apple has asked its US retail staff to return to remote working as the company shuts some of its recently reopened shops due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Deirdre O’Brien, the company’s senior vice president of retail and people, told affected employees that they would serve customers online or over the phone instead.

“If your store is closed, please sign up for Retail at Home. Please talk to your manager because we really need to make sure that we shift our teams to greet our customers remotely in this time," she said in a video message.

“We may need to be working remotely for some period of time."

Due to an increase in the number of customers buying products online and looking for services remotely because of lockdowns and travel restrictions, there have been “significant wait times”, the company said.

This is not the experience that Apple wants to offer its customers, Ms O’Brien said.

“We really want to make sure that we are moving to where our customers are, to help them during this very challenging time. As you know people are really dependent upon their devices, especially right now", she said.

Apple closed all shops outside Greater China in March as the pandemic spread around the world.

It began reopening more than 100 shops in the third week of May, responding to the gradual easing of restrictions in many countries.

However, in the past couple of weeks, Apple has again closed more than 90 shops – about 35 per cent of the total US shop count – due to the increase in coronavirus cases.

“The way we have been managing the protocols has been really effective," said Ms O’Brien.

In a memo last month, the company said it does not expect its US office staff to return to work by the end of this year. It, however, expects its workforce in Europe and Asia to make a gradual comeback in the coming months.

As of Tuesday, the US had registered more than 25 per cent of total Covid-19 cases globally, with more than 3.36 million cases out of a worldwide total of 13.1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the spread of the virus.

Apple, which reopened its three retail shops in the UAE on June 8 as authorities eased Covid-19 restrictions, is also shipping Covid-19 test kits to employees’ homes.

The California-based company also said on Monday that it is allocating more than $400 million (Dh1.5 billion) towards projects for cheaper housing in its home state this year.

This is part of the company’s multi-year $2.5bn commitment announced in November to help address the state's housing crisis.

The funding will provide thousands of Californians with first-time home-buyer assistance or new and cheaper housing units.

Apple has launched Abode Services project in Santa Clara. It will provide homes for seniors who are currently homeless or at risk of falling into homelessness. Courtesy Apple
Apple has launched Abode Services project in Santa Clara. It will provide homes for seniors who are currently homeless or at risk of falling into homelessness. Courtesy Apple

“As cities and states have been forced to pause many of their long-term affordable housing investments amid the current public health crisis, Apple is proud to continue moving forward with our comprehensive plan to combat the housing crisis in California,” said Kristina Raspe, the company’s vice president for global real estate and facilities.

Updated: July 14, 2020 08:58 PM

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