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A woman walks near the Google office in Beijing on August 3, 2018. (Picture: Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE)

Coronavirus prompts American tech giants to close shops and put off travel to China

Google, Facebook and Apple outline employee measures as Tesla closes its Gigafactory amid the China coronavirus outbreak

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

As the new coronavirus claims more victims in China, tech companies around the world are suspending business in the country.

Google confirmed to us that it’s temporarily closing down all its offices in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. While many of its popular services are blocked in mainland China, the US search giant still maintains offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to support its global advertising business, among other functions.

The story of China’s Great Firewall, the world’s most sophisticated censorship system

The company is also restricting business air travel to mainland China and Hong Kong for employees. Those who have already arrived in China are advised to return home as soon as possible and work remotely for at least 14 days.

A woman walks near the Google office in Beijing on August 3, 2018. (Picture: Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE)

Facebook also told us that it asked all employees to suspend non-essential travel to mainland China, in line with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers who recently traveled to China are also told to work from home.

Like Google, Facebook’s social network is blocked in mainland China, but it provides advertising services for Chinese companies hoping to reach an international audience.

The coronavirus crisis, which has sickened nearly 8,000 people and killed at least 170 in China, is also impacting companies with a strong retail presence in the country.

Tesla’s new electric car factory in Shanghai, which delivered its first China-made Model 3 last month, is currently shut down under a government order, the company’s finance chief Zach Kirkhorn said in an earnings call Wednesday. Mainland China is currently in the middle of an extended Lunar New Year holiday until February 2.
A Tesla Model 3 vehicle moves off an assembly line during a ceremony at the company's Gigafactory in Shanghai on December 30, 2019. (Picture: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)
In an earnings call Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said factories of its suppliers in Wuhan, where the virus originated, are closed until the end of the month.
In addition, employee travel to affected areas has been limited to only “business-critical situations.” As of Thursday morning, Apple’s mainland China website indicated that at least three stores in the country have been temporarily closed. They are located in malls in Nanjing, Qingdao and Fuzhou. Other Apple Stores have shortened their business hours.
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