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China’s iPhone city locks down to curb Foxconn Covid crisis

China’s iPhone city locks down to curb Foxconn Covid crisis
China’s iPhone city locks down to curb Foxconn Covid crisis

HONG KONG — The industrial park where Foxconn Technology Group’s iPhone assembly plant is struggling to maintain production amid a Covid-19 outbreak entered a week-long lockdown on Wednesday, after the governor from the region visited the site and called on local authorities to strengthen the virus surveillance-control campaign.

Zhengzhou Airport Economic Zone in central Henan province said the lockdown would start from noon on November 2 to counter the “severe and complicated” spread of Covid in the region. Henan Governor Wang Kai, during a visit on Tuesday, said officials must ensure strict adherence to Covid controls while improving conditions for workers.

The lockdown comes even though Foxconn introduced a closed-loop arrangement more than two weeks ago at its main factory in Zhengzhou, the world’s largest assembly site for Apple. Inc.

iPhones. Hundreds of thousands of workers could only move between their homes or dormitories and designated areas of the factory. Employees told the Wall Street Journal that many of them were confined to their dormitories or bussed to quarantine facilities away from the factory, with some complaining of insufficient supplies of food and other essentials.

Many workers, afraid of catching the Covid, refused to return to the production lines, some escaping from the site, reports the Journal.

In recent days, geotagged videos near the Foxconn site have shown groups of people walking along highways and through agricultural fields with their luggage. After the footage went viral on social media, Foxconn said it would provide transport for any workers wishing to return home.

A photo from video footage shows people with bags leaving the Foxconn complex in Zhengzhou.

Hangpai Xingyang/Associated Press

On Friday, Foxconn also increased bonuses for workers. Those who showed up every working day between October 26 and November 11 would receive free meals and a total of 1,500 yuan, or about $200. Soon after, the company quadrupled its daily bonus and extended it through the rest of November, with the potential bonus reaching around 15,000 yuan, about a quarter of the average annual salary in the city.

The company also plans to shift some production to other factories in China, the Journal quoted people familiar with reporting.

Asked about the impact of the industrial park’s seven-day shutdown, a Foxconn spokesperson said only that it was continuing closed-loop operations. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Henan reported 359 new locally transmitted Covid cases on Tuesday – including all but one in Zhengzhou – out of a national tally of more than 2,600, according to official data. While Henan’s daily new infections have increased more than tenfold over the past week, they remain lower than those in the southern province of Guangdong, Foxconn’s Chinese base and where Foxconn operates other factories assembling Apple products.

Write to Karen Hao at [email protected]

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