Coronavirus outbreak: Google shuts down all China offices temporarily
Google has temporarily shut down all its China offices due to the Coronavirus outbreak in the country. The company told the Verge that they had shut all offices in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Currently, the Chinese government has closed all offices for the extended Lunar New Year holiday so as residents can avoid travel. The country has been taking extensive measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
A Google spokesperson said that they plan to keep the offices shut in accordance to government guidance and they have also placed temporary business travel restrictions on flying to Hong Kong and mainland China.
Google has also advised employees who are currently in China and also employees who have immediate family members returning from China to get home as soon as possible and work from home for "at least 14 days from their departure".
Google's decision is the latest in the list of tech companies putting checks and measures in place to deal with the viral outbreak that has 6,000 confirmed cases and around 132 deaths till now. The coronavirus, according to health officials, originated from Wuhan in China and to put things into perspective - a lot of big tech companies have their production units in and around Wuhan.
China is the world's largest internet market and manufacturing hub for tech industries across the globe and that means the country has enough tech employees regularly flying out and in on almost a daily basis.
Though Google does not actually operate many of its popular web services in China due to the tensions with the government, they do have four offices in the country. Despite its software services not being of much use in China, Google has maintained a strong presence in the country in the hardware front with many of its product teams dealing with the supply and manufacturing of devices like the Pixel phones, Google Home speakers.
Google's plans of dealing with the Coronavirus follows Apple and Facebook's. Both the companies have restricted employee travel with Tim Cook announcing that they had closed one retail store in China and had reduced operating hours in stores across the country. Apple is also taking in-house health checks on employees' temperatures and maintaining a strict cleaning schedule across retail spaces and offices.
Verge reports that numerous other companies across the electronics, entertainment, car manufacturing, and transportation industries have also begun restricting employee travel and halting operations, including film studios and even Disney theme parks. Both United Airlines and American Airlines have started canceling upcoming flights from the US to China due to sharp declines in consumer demand. British Airways and Lufthansa have also suspended all flights to China.