More than 7,700 cases of the Wuhan coronovirus have already been confirmed in China, and now, Google has announced that it is closing down its offices in China, albeit temporarily. The Chinese government has asked residents to stay home and to avoid travel in an attempt to contain the outbreak, and Google is following suit. That includes keeping offices closed—for now—and also restricting business travel to and from China and Hong Kong.
Employees who are in China, or those who have immediate family members who have recently been in China, have also been advised by Google to work from home for at least 2 weeks. In addition to Google’s offices in mainland China, their offices in Hong Kong and Taiwan have also been temporarily shut down.
Despite that, Google doesn’t actually operate in the Chinese market, as anyone who has been will tell you. Due to “historic tensions” with the Chinese government, none of their services are officially available in China, just like Facebook. Still, they maintain(ed) offices int he country due to the fact that China is a manufacturing hub for the company with many of its hardware products, such as the Pixel phone and Google Home series.
This isn’t the first time that a major player in the tech industry has taken preventive action in light of the Wuhan virus outbreak. Facebook also restricted employee travel recently, while Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced some employee travel restrictions. Meanwhile, at least one Apple Store has already been closed in China, with employees of companies being monitored for any sign of the coronavirus.
A large part of that is due to the tech industry’s close ties with the manufacturing industry in China, as mentioned earlier. Employees of large technology companies such as Apple regularly travel to and from China, which raises the risk of the coronavirus being spread.
The fear is certainly justified, with Nytimes also reporting that China now has more cases of the Wuhan coronavirus than it had of SARS—a deadly respiratory infection that killed 774 people back in 2002/2003.
Meanwhile, on the local front, local residents have expressed fear that the Wuhan virus could be spread through packages delivered from China, although Shopee has assured users that packages are disinfected by the airlines.