Workers in China flee major iPhone factory amid Covid curbs

BEIJING — Migrant workers from central China are fleeing one of the world’s largest iPhone factories amid a coronavirus outbreak in the surrounding city of Zhengzhou, leading local authorities to hastily draw up plans to isolate them once they return to their hometown.

Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, reported 167 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in the seven days to Oct. 29, compared with 97 infections in the previous seven days.

Taiwan-based Apple supplier Foxconn currently has around 200,000 workers at its Zhengzhou complex and did not disclose the number of infected workers, but said on Sunday it would not stop workers from leaving.

Late Saturday, towns near Zhengzhou, including Yuzhou, Changge and Qinyang, urged Foxconn workers to report to local authorities in advance before returning home.

Returning workers must travel “point-to-point” in pre-arranged vehicles and must quarantine upon arrival, they said in separate letters on their respective social media accounts addressed to Foxconn workers in Zhengzhou. .

Under China’s strict zero-Covid policy, cities are required to act quickly to quell any outbreaks, with measures that could include large-scale lockdowns. On October 19, Foxconn banned all canteen dining and required workers to eat in their dormitories.

“The government has agreed to resume restaurant dining to improve employee convenience and life satisfaction,” Foxconn told Reuters in an email response to questions on Sunday.

“At the same time, for some employees who wish to return home, the factory is cooperating with the government to organize personnel and vehicles to provide orderly point-to-point return service for employees from today. .”

Disruptions to China’s Covid policies towards trade and industry have intensified in recent weeks as cases mount. Shanghai Disney Resort said on Monday it was closing due to Covid-19 prevention measures, as Universal Beijing Resort was set to reopen after being closed since last Wednesday for the same reason.

“We are very aware that in the current situation, this is a protracted battle,” Foxconn said.

But the situation is gradually being brought under control, he said, and Foxconn will coordinate backup production capacity with its other factories to reduce any potential impact on iPhone production.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on Foxconn’s situation.

Foxconn did not respond to questions from Reuters about the number of cases detected at its Zhengzhou plant and the number of workers leaving.

Photographs and videos circulating on Chinese social media since Saturday show Foxconn workers, apparently on their way home, walking through fields by day and along roads by night. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the messages.

In a show of support, nearby residents left bottled water and groceries beside the roads with signs such as: “For Foxconn workers going home,” according to social media posts.

“Some people were walking in the middle of the wheat fields with their luggage, blankets and quilts,” a user of WeChat, a popular social media platform, wrote of the footage.

“I couldn’t help but be sad.”

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