China Locks Down the Worlds Biggest iPhone Plant

Chinese authorities have locked down a district in Zhengzhou city – which is home to the world’s largest iPhone factory – under the country’s strict coronavirus measures.

The lockdown started on Wednesday and is set to last for seven days.

The move may have an impact on production of the new iPhone 14, which is made at Foxconn’s plant in the city.

Chinese people and businesses are continuing to grapple with President Xi Jinping’s rigid zero-Covid policy.

On Wednesday, local authorities said the lockdown of the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone would start immediately and end at midday local time on 9 November.

Public transport services have been suspended and people advised to work from home, according to an official notice on the WeChat social media platform.

Officials said they would “resolutely crack down on all kinds of violations of regulations”.

Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan province in central China and is home to about 10 million people.

It reported 167 locally transmitted infections in the seven days to last Saturday – up from 97 in the previous week.

The lockdown comes at a key time for Apple, shortly after the launch of the iPhone 14 and ahead of the crucial Christmas and Lunar New Year shopping seasons.

Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant, which employs around 200,000 workers, produces the majority of Apple’s new phones.

On Tuesday, Foxconn said it had quadrupled its daily bonuses at the manufacturing hub after a breakout by workers during a Covid lockdown.

The firm said bonuses for assembly line workers will be raised to 400 yuan ($55.02; £47.76) a day.

Foxconn also said that people who worked for more than 25 days a month at the factory would be awarded a maximum bonus of 5,000 yuan, up from 1,500 yuan.

It added that those who put in their “full effort” in November – without taking any leave – could be paid a total bonus of more than 15,000 yuan for the month.

The company said the bonuses were part of an effort to “gradually resume orderly production” and “thank our fellow employees’ persistence”.

It has not yet provided an official count of how many people had been infected by the coronavirus at the plant.

Foxconn employees take shuttle buses to head home in Zhengzhou in the Henan province of China.

Last Wednesday, Foxconn said a “small number of employees” in Zhengzhou had been “affected by the pandemic” and were being provided with “material supplies, psychological comfort and responsive feedback”.

“At present, the epidemic prevention work in Zhengzhou is progressing steadily, and the impact on the group is controllable. The operating outlook for this quarter remains unchanged,” it added.

However, footage shared on Chinese social media, and by the BBC’s China correspondent Stephen McDonell, showed that workers were allegedly filmed escaping from the grounds to begin lengthy walks back to their hometowns, in a bid to avoid being caught on public transport.

One 22-year-old worker, surnamed Xia, told the Financial Times it was “total chaos in the dormitories” he and colleagues were being kept in.

Workers also claimed that the area surrounding the plant had been locked down for days, with Covid-positive workers being quarantined and tested daily to try to contain the outbreak.

On Sunday Foxconn said it would no longer require workers at the plant to eat meals in their rooms “to improve the convenience and satisfaction of employees’ lives”.

The firm added that it was working with the local government to provide a “point-to-point orderly return service” for workers who wanted to go home.

It is unclear how workers will now be able to return home after the district was locked down. Foxconn and Apple did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

Other businesses in China have been hit by coronavirus outbreaks in recent days.

Earlier on Wednesday Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio confirmed that it had suspended production at two of its factories in the eastern city of Hefei.

This week the firm reported that it had delivered more than 10,000 vehicles in October.

It said the figures were “constrained by operation challenges in our plants as well as supply chain volatilities due to the Covid-19 situations in certain regions in China”.


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