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People walk past the Apple store at a Mall in Dubai on March 14, 2020. - Apple is closing all stores outside China until March 27 due to COVID-19.

GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images

Apple Inc said late on Friday it will close all its retail stores, except those in Greater China, for the next two weeks to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Read Tim Cook’s letter

The announcement from the smart phone maker escalates the global response to the outbreak, as most major retailers have kept stores open.

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“We will be closing all of our retail stores outside of Greater China until March 27,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website.

Apple reopened all 42 of its branded stores in China on Friday as the number of new cases fell in the country where the coronavirus outbreak originated.

More than 138,000 people have been infected worldwide and over 5,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally of government announcements.

Retailers are bracing for a blow to sales as virus-wary shoppers in Europe and the United States stay home. U.S. retailers including Macy’s Inc , Saks Fifth Avenue and Gap Inc.’s Banana Republic sent notices to shoppers on Thursday saying they were open for business in a move to stem losses due to a steep decline in traffic.

Apple’s hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operation, Cook said, and online sales will continue as usual.

“In all of our offices, we are moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China,” he added. “That means team members should work remotely if their job allows.”

The company’s donations to the global coronavirus response, to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts, reached $15 million on Friday, Cook wrote in the letter.

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

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