CHICAGO: Walmart temporarily shut almost 60 U.S. stores in COVID-19 hotspots in December to sanitize them against the virus, in a sign the new Omicron variant is disrupting the retail industry.

The Walmart stores – in locations including Texas and New Jersey – were closed for two days for cleaning “to present a safe and clean in-store environment for our associates and customers," a company spokesperson told Reuters in a statement. Walmart has more than 4,700 U.S. locations in total.

The company made no comment on the potential impact of the closures.

It adopted a policy two years ago at the start of the coronavirus pandemic of closing stores for fewer than two days to “get ahead” of potential outbreaks.

“We’ve been closely monitoring our stores across the country, making the decision to temporarily close locations on a store-by-store basis through a collection of market-related data,” the Walmart spokesperson said, declining to confirm that there were staff COVID-19 cases at the closed locations.

The world’s biggest retailer also did not comment on whether it was seeing an increase in workers testing positive for COVID-19.

The United States has seen a spike in cases of the Omicron variant, leading retailers and restaurant chains to temporarily shutter stores and limit access to customers.

(Reporting by Richa Naidu and Danielle Kaye; Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Hilary Russ; Editing by Vanessa O'Connell, Anna Driver and Stephen Coates) ((; Follow me on Twitter; +1 312 636 8874;))