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“We feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close,” said Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s U.K and Ireland.

McDonald's closing all United Kingdom and Ireland stores due to escalating coronavirus conditions

CEO Paul Pomroy says it became “increasingly difficult” to maintain safe social distancing at “busy” stores open for to-go services

More than 1,270 McDonald's restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland are closing as of Monday, March 23 because it became “increasingly difficult” to maintain safe social distancing while operating “busy” stores for drive-thru and to-go orders, said Paul Pomroy, CEO of McDonald’s U.K and Ireland.

"We have not taken this decision lightly and know that our restaurants have been playing an important role in the community providing hundreds of thousands of free drinks to frontline health and social workers and emergency services personnel," he said in a statement. 

However, Pomroy said the division would only maintain its to-go model if it could ensure it was safe for employees and franchisees. McDonald's has about 135,000 employees in the U.K. 

“We feel now is the time to make this decision to temporarily close,” he said. 

Employees working at company-owned McDonald's restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland will receive full pay for "their scheduled hours until April 5," McDonald's said.

On Friday, Starbucks cafes in the U.S. closed access to cafes as it become impossible to maintain social distancing for carryout orders, the company said. Drive-thru and delivery remain open to consumers. 

In the United States, McDonald’s has kept a majority of its 14,000 restaurants open for drive-thru, carryout and delivery service.  In an interview Friday with CNBC, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the Chicago-based quick service chain has temporarily closed 50 domestic restaurants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  The restaurants closed because they are located in malls or venues that have closed such as Chicago’s Navy Pier.

In a statement released Monday, McDonald’s USA President Joe Erlinger said this is a very stressful time and “McDonald’s is here to serve communities across the United States.”

“Our customers, employees and communities are counting on us now more than ever to provide them the meaningful support, delicious food and good paying jobs,” he said.

On Monday, McDonald's Corp. told Nation's Restaurant News that markets around the world are closely monitoring local government and health authority guidance.

"Decisions on restaurant operations are made at the market level based on the unique situations in those communities," the Chicago-based chain said.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

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