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McDonald’s closes restaurants in five Chinese cities because of the coronavirus

McDonald’s has closed restaurants in five Chinese cities and is implementing new health protocols in the region as the deadly coronavirus continues to spread.

On Friday, the company shuttered locations in Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggang, Qianjiang and Xiantao — all cities that have been impacted by the Chinese government’s travel restrictions, company spokesperson Barry Sum told CNN Business in an email. At least 10 cities in central Hubei province are facing travel restrictions, including Wuhan, where this strain of coronavirus originated.

“McDonald’s restaurant operation in Hubei province runs normally in cities where public transportation is available,” Sum said. “Staff and customers’ safety is our first priority and we have comprehensive, precautious measures being implemented to all restaurant operations and office staff.” It’s not clear when the affected restaurants will reopen.

At least 800 people have been infected with the virus, which has killed dozens. The respiratory infection has spread to Japan, Thailand and the United States, among other countries. Major cities including Beijing have canceled some or all major Lunar New Year celebrations in an attempt to prevent more illness and death.

McDonald’s “will maintain close communication with local health and other relevant authorities, actively implement any guidance by medical authorities for containment of the virus, and continue to work together to fight this epidemic,” Sum said.

In addition to suspending service, McDonald’s is also enacting strict new standards to monitor employees for signs of the infection. The company shared on its Chinese social media platforms that “all restaurants are required to commence a system of measuring body temperatures of all crews upon arrival at work,” adding that it has “established a reporting, recording and observation mechanism for employees traveling to and from Wuhan during the New Year Spring Festival.”

Employees with fevers or cold symptoms are to be sent home. Additionally, workers will start wearing masks and are being instructed to wash their hands and use disinfectants more frequently.

The chain is also placing hand sanitizers in stores for customer use, increasing the frequency of cleanings in stores and instructing suppliers to take safety precautions, as well.

McDonald’s is betting big on China as a growth market. During an October call discussing the company’s third-quarter earnings, former CEO Steve Easterbrook pointed to China as one of the best-performing international markets.

During the quarter, he said, more customers went to Chinese restaurants and spent more compared to the year before. Chinese customers responded especially well to McDonald’s digital initiatives, he added.

Other global businesses are responding to the outbreak, as well. Shanghai Disney Resort is closing its doors during the holiday “in response to the prevention and control of the disease outbreak.” It’s not clear when the park will reopen.

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