Apple shuts California, London stores as coronavirus pandemic worsens

People wait in line in San Bernardino, California,to be tested for coronavirus on Dec 18, 2020. PHOTO: NYTIMES

SAN FRANCISCO (BLOOMBERG) - Apple is temporarily closing all of its retail stores across California, as well as those in the greater London area hit by a new lockdown, and other markets that have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Cupertino, California, based company said on its website on Saturday (Dec 19) that it's closing all 53 locations across the Golden State, a day after saying it would shut its stores in the Los Angeles area. The escalation of closures now covers its major locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Apple did not say when they would reopen.

The closures come in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Apple had been looking to top US$100 billion (S$130 billion) in quarterly revenue for the first time on sales of the iPhone 12, its latest iPads, and new Apple Watches.

California has been the centre of the pandemic in the US in recent weeks. Total cases in the state passed the 1.8 million mark on Saturday, when it added 43,608 new infections and 272 deaths, for a total of 22,432 fatalities.

The move also includes Apple's retail stores at its offices in Silicon Valley. It marks one of the largest string of closures for Apple's stores since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a full lockdown on London and south-east England in an attempt to stop a new coronavirus strain spreading rapidly over the country.

Covid-19 case rates nearly doubled in London over the past week, with almost 60 per cent of these infections attributed to the new strain of the virus, according to government officials.

"Due to current Covid-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas," Apple said in a statement. "We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible."

Apple had reopened the vast majority of its over 270 US stores in recent months, although most of the locations were by appointment only. For the stores still open, Apple has transitioned many into what it's calling "Express" stores. That converts the front portion of locations into bank teller-like lines for people to buy products and pick up items sent for repair.

The iPhone maker will also close its stores in Mexico and Brazil temporarily as cases increase in both countries.

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