(March 4): Apple Inc. restricted employee travel to Italy and South Korea, after recently instating a similar policy for China, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread.
“We have instituted specific travel restrictions in a few countries including China, South Korea, and Italy,” the company told employees in a memo that outlines its latest response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Employees are only allowed to travel to those regions for business-critical reasons and must get approval from a company vice president, Apple told staff in messages viewed by Bloomberg News.
The memo sent Monday evening also outlined the company’s procedures for handling the outbreak, including the encouragement of virtual meetings.
“There are many ways to continue to manage our ongoing meetings and activities through calls and video,” Apple said in the email to workers. “If you do have travel planned, we suggest you work with your managers to consider delaying or canceling business travel which could be postponed or managed through virtual meetings.”
Apple also said “deep cleaning protocols are our top priority” and are in effect across its stores, offices and employee shuttles. It has since put hand sanitizer stations at the front of its stores as well.
The company’s memo also said that “any employee who is sick, in particular, anyone who has a fever or severe cough, should take sick leave until they have fully recovered.” It also is encouraging workers to wash their hands, not touch their faces and cover their coughs.
Apple previously cut employee travel to China, the epicenter of the virus, and was forced to close all 42 of its local stores and offices. The company’s offices and more than half of its stores in the country have since re-opened.
The move to cut travel to Italy and South Korea comes after the number of virus cases in those countries rapidly increased. Apple has one store in South Korea and 17 in Italy, but none of those stores have closed, according to a review of Apple’s retail website.
On Friday, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the Cupertino, California-based company has suppliers and business operations in Korea and Italy. “It’s very important to see what happens there,” he said.
Apple has uniquely been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak due to the majority of its supply chain being based in China. Foxconn, its main product assembler, said this week that its factories are operating at about half of their seasonal capacity.