Apple chief Tim Cook this week said the company is preparing for its production to be affected by an ongoing coronavirus outbreak, and the company is limiting employee travel to the region. Apple joins other tech companies in keeping China travel to only crucial business functions as U.S. health officials warn against non-essential travel in response to the deadly virus.
Cook said in a call with investors on Tuesday that Apple as of last week had limited employee travel to China to “business-critical” matters, adding that the company is donating to groups working to contain the outbreak in the region. Cook said that the company does have suppliers in the Wuhan region where the outbreak is believed to have originated, and Apple is forecasting a wider range in earnings as a result of the potential impacts to the company.
“The situation is emerging and we’re still gathering lots of data points and monitoring it really closely,” Cook said. “We have a wider than usual revenue range for the second quarter due to the greater uncertainty.”
Cook said that Apple has already closed one of its stores in the region, and many of its retail locations have scaled back the hours they’re open. He added those stores are currently undergoing frequent “deep cleaning” and that employees at those stores are being temperature checked.
Apple isn’t the only tech giant being affected by the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported Monday that Facebook has restricted employees’ travel to China as of Monday, and employees must seek specific permission if their work requires them to travel to the region. Additionally, Bloomberg reported that employees who recently travelled to China are being directed to work from home.
Microsoft has also taken measures to limit employee travel. A spokesperson for the company told Forbes in a statement that based on information from health officials, “we have advised employees in China to work from home and cancel all non-essential business travel.” An LG spokesperson told The Verge that it, too, has “has implemented a complete travel ban on employee travel to China. Non-China based employees currently in that country are required to return to their home countries immediately.”
Chinese officials on Wednesday said there were 132 deaths linked to the outbreak, with the World Health Organisation reporting thousands of confirmed cases. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention this week advised restricting all nonessential travel to China, and airlines operating out of the U.S. have begun cancelling some flights amid declining demand for travel to the country. Multiple outlets this week reported that the White House is considering a flight ban to and from China as one possible response to the outbreak.