China Covid: The area around the world’s largest iPhone factory is closed
Chinese authorities have locked down an area in the city of Zhengzhou, home to the world’s largest iPhone factory, due to the country’s strict coronavirus measures.
The lockdown began on Wednesday and is expected to last for seven days.
The move could have an impact on production of the new iPhone 14, which will be manufactured at Foxconn’s factory in the city.
Chinese people and businesses continue to struggle with President Xi Jinping’s rigid zero-Covid policy.
On Wednesday, local authorities said the economic zone lockdown of Zhengzhou Airport would begin soon and end at 12:00 local time on November 9.
According to an official announcement on social media platform WeChat, public transportation has been suspended and people are advised to work from home.
Officials said they would “take strict action against all kinds of rule violations”.
Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan province in central China and has about 10 million inhabitants.
In the seven days to last Saturday, 167 locally transmitted infections were reported – up from 97 the previous week.
The blocking comes at a crucial time for Apple, right after the launch of the iPhone 14 and ahead of the crucial Christmas and Lunar New Year shopping season.
Foxconn’s Zhengzhou factory, which employs about 200,000 people, makes most of Apple’s new phones.
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On Tuesday, Foxconn said it had doubled its daily bonus at its manufacturing hub following a strike by workers during the Covid lockdown.
The company said the bonus for assembly line workers would be increased to 400 yuan ($55.02; £47.76) per day.
Foxconn also said people who work more than 25 days a month at the factory will get a maximum bonus of 5,000 yuan instead of 1,500 yuan.
He added that those who “work hard” in November – without taking a vacation – can receive a total bonus of more than 15,000 yuan for the month.
The company said the bonuses were part of efforts to “gradually resume normal production” and “thanks to the persistence of our colleagues”.
The official number of people infected with the coronavirus at the factory has not been given.
Last Wednesday, Foxconn said a “small number of employees” in Zhengzhou were “affected by the pandemic” and received “material supplies, psychological comfort and responsive feedback.”
“At present, the epidemic prevention work in Zhengzhou is developing rapidly, and the impact on the group can be controlled. The operational outlook for the quarter remains unchanged,” he added.
However, footage shared on Chinese social media and by BBC China correspondent Stephen McDonnell shows the workers allegedly filmed fleeing the scene to walk long distances back to their hometowns to avoid taking public transport to avoid being caught.
A 22-year-old worker, surnamed Xia, told the Financial Times that there was “total chaos in the dormitory” where he and his colleagues were being held.
Workers also said the area around the factory was locked down for days, with Covid-positive workers quarantined and tested daily to try to contain the outbreak.
On Sunday, Foxconn said factory workers no longer needed to eat in their rooms “to increase employee comfort and life satisfaction.”
The company added that it is working with local governments to provide a “point-by-point organized return service” for workers who wish to return home.
It is not clear how the workers were able to return home after the neighborhood was locked down. Foxconn and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the BBC.
Other companies in China have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak in recent days.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio confirmed it had halted production at two of its factories in the eastern city of Hefei.
The company said this week that it delivered more than 10,000 vehicles in October.
The figures are “limited by operational challenges at our plant, as well as supply chain volatility due to the Covid-19 situation in certain regions of China.
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