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Apple temporarily closes stores in China amid virus outbreak

The iPhone maker said it's closing stores and corporate offices in China, the company's third biggest market in terms of sales.

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is temporarily closing its 42 stores in mainland China, one of its largest markets, as a new virus spreads rapidly and the death toll there rose to 259 on Saturday. 

The iPhone maker said in a statement it was closing stores, corporate offices and contact centers in China until Feb. 9 “out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts." 

Chinese health authorities reported 361 deaths and 17,205 confirmed cases on Monday. Other countries are continuing evacuations and restricting the entry of Chinese or people who have recently traveled in the country. 

In the province at the epicenter of the outbreak, a specialized 1,000-bed hospital started treating patients and a second hospital with 1,500 beds is to open within days.

China is Apple's third biggest market in terms of sales behind the United States and Europe and it is also where most iPhones and other devices are made. 

Experts say travel restrictions and business closures aimed at stopping the spread of the new virus could end up hurting rather than helping the situation. 

That's because the economies of countries and businesses around the world are so interconnected that travel restrictions impact trade, with devastating ripple effects, according to Dr. Eric Toner, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. 

Toner led a summit in October with World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to discuss the negative impacts of trade and travel restrictions during a pandemic. 

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Credit: AP
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2019, file photo, a trade-in for iPhone XR promotion board is displayed as an Apple employee waits for customer at its retail store in Beijing, China. Apple is temporarily closing its 42 stores in mainland China, one of its largest markets, as a new virus spreads rapidly and the death toll there rose to 259 on Saturday, Feb 1, 2020. The iPhone maker said in a statement it was closing stores, corporate offices and contact centers in China until Feb. 9 “out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts." (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)