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Coronavirus: China locks down massive area around world’s largest iPhone factory

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 02/11/2022 Xinlu Liang
  • Authorities call situation 'severe and complicated' after Covid infections spike in Foxconn plant industrial zone
  • Local government warns it will 'resolutely crack down on all kinds of violations'

Chinese authorities on Wednesday imposed a seven-day lockdown in an area surrounding the world's largest iPhone factory in the central province of Henan.

The move came after workers from Foxconn Technology Group had fled the company's main plant located in the Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone following restrictions that were implemented due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus: China faces new waves of 'dire and complicated' outbreaks

Authorities said the district lockdown will last until noon on November 9, according to a statement posted on an official account. Extensions of such lockdowns in China are common.

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"The current pandemic situation is severe and complicated," the statement said, adding the lockdown was intended "to protect the lives and health of the people, reduce the flow of people, and quickly and effectively contain the spread of the pandemic".

Private businesses have been closed, gatherings are suspended and only essential traffic is being allowed. Government employees were told to work from home or volunteer help for local mass testing or other community needs.

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During the lockdown, authorities said mass testing would be conducted daily, and those who did not get tested would be assigned a yellow code on their health code apps.

The statement said that authorities would "resolutely crack down on all kinds of violations", and "strictly deal with those found to be disobedient", referring to punishment for people who did not follow orders, left an area without permission or gathered in crowds.

The news came days after many of Foxconn's nearly 300,000 employees began leaving the industrial zone to return to their homes to avoid an outbreak.

In videos shared on social media, hundreds of thousands of workers were seen breaking out of the massive facility by climbing fences while carrying luggage and then walking along roads and highways with little food.

Some people said they were willing to walk more than 100km (60 miles) to get back home rather than stay at the factory where they said they were exposed to infection and poor living conditions.

On Sunday, the company and local governments offered to arrange transport for those wishing to leave.

By Tuesday, the company had rolled out bonus schemes and other benefits to attract staff back to work.

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Zhengzhou on Wednesday reported 64 confirmed cases and 294 asymptomatic infections, a rise from 13 confirmed cases and 82 asymptomatic infections on Tuesday.

Most people had been aware of the outbreak and confusion for several days, but the official number of infections had not climbed until recently. Employees and other Zhengzhou residents had been exchanging conflicting messages while struggling to get a clear picture of the overall situation.

Foxconn imposed strict Covid-19 restrictions two weeks ago, but staff complained on social media about inadequate living conditions threatening their health.

'Slowdown': China's factory activity shrinks as virus curbs hit output, demand

"It's because the information is opaque, the company is too big, and the process is too complicated, so employees have some misunderstanding of the real situation," an assembly line manager said on Tuesday in an interview with YiMagazine.

He warned that the pandemic had cut the factory's production capacity by 50 per cent.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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

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