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Google just took a dramatic step in response to the coronavirus outbreak

Updated Jan 29th, 2020 7:34PM EST
Image: Alastair Grant/AP/Shutterstock

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Google is stepping up its response to the coronavirus outbreak in China, confirming today that the search giant will temporarily shutter of all of its offices there as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The offices are actually already closed as a result of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Google, however, has decided those offices will remain closed indefinitely, part of a multi-faceted response to the virus from the company which has also included restricting its business travel to China and Kong. Finally, Google is pressing employees in the country to work from home for at least two weeks.

Google confirmed the temporary closure of all its China offices today to The Verge, the latest move by a tech giant in response to the health crisis that originated in the city of Wuhan. At least 170 people have died so far from the disease, of which there have been more than 7,000 cases so far.

Facebook and Apple this week both clamped down on travel to the region, putting a pause on that until conditions improve. The virus also factored a bit into Apple’s quarterly earnings presentation on Tuesday, with no less than Apple CEO Tim Cook detailing a variety of steps it, too, has taken in China (where the iPhone maker still does most of its manufacturing). Apple, Cook said, has restricted travel to China, closed one store there and cut back on store hours, as well.

Of course, this kind of response is not limited only to the tech industry. Airline cancellations have been mounting, with United, American, British Airways, and Lufthansa all either canceling or suspending flights to China in recent days. When you count up the lost business and all the other dollars-and-cents-related consequences of the spread of the disease — the canceled flights, closed businesses, shuttered offices and halted film productions, among others — one estimate has pinpointed the economic toll of the outbreak to tens of billions of dollars.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.