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No option but to shut down - temporarily. But Apple's closures come at a critical time in the peak holiday sales phase. Image Credit: AP

New York: Apple Inc. temporarily shuttered at least eight retail stores in the US and Canada over the past day as COVID-19 cases surged among the public and employees.

Apple typically shuts down a retail store when around 10 per cent of staff members test positive for COVID-19. Such closures have become increasingly routine in recent weeks. Before the latest round, Apple shut and reopened eight additional locations, including stores in Texas, Maryland, Hawaii, Ohio and Ottawa.

The closures typically lasted a few days each. A ninth closed store - Lincoln Road in Miami Beach - remains shut. In August, Apple also temporarily closed a location in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We regularly monitor conditions, and we will adjust our health measures to support the well-being of customers and employees,” Apple said in a statement. “We remain committed to a comprehensive approach for our teams that combines regular testing with daily health checks, employee and customer masking, deep cleaning and paid sick leave.”

Apple has previously said that all its workers are tested regularly and that it only reopens stores once each employee is tested again. As COVID-19 case numbers and the omicron variant surge across the world, Apple has started to limit occupancy inside its retail stores to promote social distancing. It has also restored its mask mandate across all US stores and has once again put in plexiglass dividers to protect employees.

At the same time, Apple added an incentive to order online. On Wednesday, the company rolled out free two-hour delivery for its products in “most metro areas”. The deal runs through December 24. That shipping option normally costs $9.