Foxconn’s largest iPhone factory keeps Covid-19 lockdown as surrounding Zhengzhou district loosens some restrictions

The Zhengzhou city district that is home to the world’s largest iPhone factory has announced an end to a week-long lockdown for areas that do not include the Foxconn facility.

As of noon on Wednesday, communities within the Zhengzhou Airport Economic Zone without any positive Covid-19 cases for seven consecutive days can return to “normal life”, the district said in a notice.

However, many areas within the district are still classified as “high risk”, and residents face restricted movement. People can only go out if they have a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result within the last day, according to the notice. A district-wide ban on dining in restaurants is also still in place, and students must continue to attend courses online.

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The area that surrounds the 5.6 million square meter factory of Foxconn, Apple’s largest contract manufacturer formally known as the Hon Hai Precision Industry, has been labeled a “temporary control area to avoid spillover”. Residents there cannot leave their residential compounds, and they may be confined to their flats if there has been a new case in the past week.

The district did not specify how long these measures will remain in place. Foxconn did not respond to a request for comment.

The local government remains on guard for any possible re-emergence of the virus as it tries to stay in line with Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy that has contributed to a slowing domestic economy.

Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan province, is just the latest to be hard-hit by Covid controls, but Foxconn’s massive facility, with nearly 300,000 workers at its peak, has made it a particular point of concern for the world’s largest technology company.

Apple said on Sunday that the facility was “operating at significantly reduced capacity”, resulting in lower-than-anticipated shipments and longer delivery times for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Foxconn said on Monday that it would revise down its outlook for the fourth quarter “due to the pandemic affecting some of [its] operations in Zhengzhou”.

Since the latest Covid-19 wave hit Zhengzhou last month, Foxconn has been operating its facility there in a so-called closed-loop mode that keeps workers on the campus. The cases rose, though, workers complained about “terrible” living conditions and ten of thousands have fled out of fear of being infected.

To try to stem the outflow, Foxconn has increased incentives for workers to stay. On Monday, it offered those who left a one-time 500 yuan (US$70) subsidy to return to work. Last week, it quadrupled its daily worker bonus to 400 yuan.

Among its stepped-up efforts to tamp down the spread of the virus, Foxconn has added personnel to collect PCR samples, increased disinfection and provided other services. However, workers told the Post that the situation on campus remains disorganized, in part because there are not enough quarantine spaces for those who test positive and close contacts. Dormitory management is also chaotic, they said, as some workers who were under quarantine were told to free up beds for newcomers because they had not shown up to work for at least three days.

One area that has improved is medical care, according to the workers. Access to the traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen, the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen and antiviral treatment Azvudine are all handed out for free to those in quarantine and help ease anxiety about falling sick, they said.

Neither Foxconn nor the local government has reported the number of confirmed cases at the factory.

Health authorities in Henan province on Tuesday reported 159 confirmed Covid-19 cases, all in Zhengzhou. Among the 888 asymptomatic cases, 884 were from the city.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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