Chinese authorities on Wednesday locked down about 600,000 people in the area around the world’s largest iPhone factory after dozens of workers fled fearing restrictions due to a Covid outbreak there.
The Zhengzhou Airport Economic Zone (center), which houses the factory of Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, began a sevenday curfew today, according to an official statement.
The factory, which employs more than 200,000 people, has been closed since midOctober following a coronavirus outbreak. The site is around 600 km southwest of Beijing.
“It’s still operating in a closed loop,” Foxconn told AFP on Wednesday.
According to analysts quoted in the press, the industrial complex, which has three factories and employs around 350,000 people, ensures the assembly of around 80% of the iPhone 14, the latest model from American giant Apple.
To reduce its reliance on China, Apple announced in September that it would outsource some of its manufacturing to India, which already makes about 3% of iPhones.
Last week, images surfaced on Chinese social media of workers fleeing the factory, some jumping over a fence and returning home after walking long distances.
Workers complained online about poor working conditions and said they had to flee the factory to escape Covid restrictions.
The NGO China Labor Watch, citing employee reports, said sick workers had to continue working with others and that many positive cases and contact cases were isolated in a neighboring building under construction.
From this Wednesday, the more than 600,000 residents of the economic zone, with the exception of Covid prevention volunteers and essential workers, “will not be able to leave home” except for compelling reasons, such as carrying out Covid tests and emergency medicine treatment.
Authorities also said only medical vehicles or vehicles carrying essential goods are allowed to pass. And they warned they would be “uncompromising in their approach to any type of infringement.”
To retain employees, Foxconn announced on Tuesday that employees will receive a daily bonus of 400 yuan ($55) if they report to work, four times the previous bonus of 100 yuan per day.
Employees will also receive additional bonuses if they show up for work for 15 days or more in November, up to 15,000 yuan if they show up fully that month.
Foxconn admitted it faces a “long battle” against Covid but did not specify the number of employees who have tested positive or are locked down at its Zhengzhou factory.
China is the last major economy in the world to maintain a zeroCovid strategy, which consists of stopping the virus from circulating through containment, mass testing and lengthy quarantines.
On Wednesday, China reported more than 2,000 new infections for the third straight day, prompting new restrictions.
The Macau Territory announced testing for its 700,000 residents after discovering several cases that led to the closure of one of its casinos.
The Guangzhou industrial hub, meanwhile, announced partial closures in several districts on Monday and reported more than 520 new infections on Tuesday.