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Chairs are stacked in a Starbucks coffee shop that remained open for customers purchasing for take-away, on March 16, 2020, in New York.

John Minchillo/The Associated Press

Tim Hortons parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc. says it is asking Canadian restaurant owners to provide takeout, drive-thru and delivery only in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The company said Monday it is closing all dining room seating at Tim Hortons effective Tuesday and will continue the closures until further notice.

The change comes as governments across the country urge Canadians to engage in social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

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Restaurant Brands acknowledged that Tim Hortons restaurants are gathering places for communities, but said the change was being made to contribute to social distancing that has been called for by public health officials.

“As Canada’s leading restaurant brand, we have a responsibility not only to serve guests – but to protect them during this uncertain time,” the company said in a statement.

It said if there are further instructions from public health officials it will take any necessary extra steps.

Following the lead of public health agencies, businesses have been moving to reduce contact among both staff and customers, and limiting non-essential travel.

Starbucks Corp. too has closed its dine-in areas and switched to a “to go” format for at least two weeks to help control the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and Canada.

The world’s largest coffee chain said on Sunday it would also temporarily close stores in communities with high numbers of coronavirus cases, as well as malls and university campuses.

The unprecedented move comes as authorities in New York, Los Angeles and other global cities shut down bars, restaurants, theatres and cinemas to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a takeout or delivery basis.

On Monday, burger chain Shake Shack Inc said it would temporarily shift to a takeout model in all of its U.S. company-owned restaurants. The company also withdrew its 2020 forecasts, citing “unprecedented market conditions.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, has killed 60 people and infected over 3,600 in the United States.

Globally, the virus has infected over 169,000 people and killed more than 6,500.

“The situation with COVID-19 is extremely dynamic and we will continue to review the facts and science and make the pro-active decisions necessary,” said Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks’ U.S. company-operated and Canada businesses.

The company had earlier warned of a hit to second-quarter from the outbreak in China, with comparable store sales there falling about 50%.

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Starbucks had earlier stopped accepting reusable cups and thermos flasks from customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa after announcing a similar policy in the United States.

Shares of Shake Shack and Starbucks were down 18.1% and 12.9%, respectively, amid a broader market slump.

With files from Reuters

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