It is estimated that production of Apple’s iPhones could fall by up to 30% as the result of a Covid lockdown affecting one of the world’s largest manufacturing facilities. The plant which employs up to 200,000 workers is located in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province in north-central China. The facility is operated by Foxconn, a Taiwanese-based company with factories spread across China.
China has been operating under strict zero-Covid policies since the outbreak of the pandemic. Efforts to control the spread of the virus have led to large-scale shutdowns and quarantines of individuals exposed to the disease. The current situation plaguing iPhone production is being caused by several issues surrounding the zero-tolerance approach prompted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Many cities are currently experiencing lockdowns due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone, where the iPhone factory is located, is imposing what it calls “silent management measures’ which prohibit individuals from going outside and only allow approved vehicles on the road. These policies were instituted on November 2nd and will continue for a week until November 9th.
The lockdown measures have resulted in a wave of fear among the impacted workers and individuals. Many workers have attempted to flee the facility in response to reports of food shortages and the treatment of those testing positive for the disease. Workers are restricted from eating in the facility’s cafeteria and are forced to take long walks from their dormitories to their workplace to reduce contact with others. They are also subjected to daily coronavirus testing and temperature checks.
Reports quickly spread on Chinese social media about food shortages and a lack of basic necessities provided by Foxconn. Some workers, faced with the prospect of catching the virus and being quarantined, opted to leave their jobs with hundreds of workers fleeing the plant. Transportation restrictions forced many of these individuals to walk long distances to their homes.
Employees have criticized Foxconn’s response to the outbreak which includes sending workers who test positive to quarantine centers along with uninfected family members. In other cases, individuals who had come in close contact with infected workers have been forced to continue on the job. Foxconn is currently offering workers a bonus to continue working.
Previous lockdowns have often exceeded initial estimates, presenting the possibility that the situation may extend past November 9th. An extended lockdown will negatively affect Apple’s ability to meet iPhone orders and highlights the fragile nature of the global supply chain. Disruptions across the globe can impact multinational companies at any time.