Fearing COVID, workers flee Foxconn’s massive Chinese iPhone factory

BEIJING (Reuters) – After enduring days of confinement at Foxconn’s massive central China facility with 200,000 other workers, Yuan finally scaled fences on Saturday night and escaped the compound, joining others fleeing what they feared was a widening coronavirus outbreak. outbreak.

He walked all night, heading North Road, toward his hometown of Hebi, every step leading him away from iPhone maker Foxconn. (2317.TW) Zhengzhou Factory, the largest Taiwan-based group in mainland China.

“There were a lot of people on the road,” Yuan told Reuters on Monday, declining to give his full name due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Since mid-October, Foxconn has been battling a COVID-19 outbreak at its facility in Zhengzhou, the capital of central China’s Henan Province. Workers have been locked up to stop the spread of the coronavirus to the outside world. Foxconn has repeatedly declined to disclose the burden of the case.

“We closed our doors on October 14, had to do endless PCR tests, and after about 10 days, we had to wear N95 masks, and we were given traditional Chinese medicines,” Yuan said.

He told Reuters that whenever a positive or suspected case is found in the production line, there will be a public broadcast, but the work will continue.

“People will be called away in the middle of work, and if they don’t show up the next day, that means they have been taken away,” Yuan said.

About 20,000 workers have been quarantined at the site, Yuan heard, but he cannot be sure of the number of infected people, because the administration has not released this information.

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China usually isolates large numbers of people considered close or even potential contact with an infected person.

The world’s second largest economy continues to wage war on COVID with alarming lockdowns, mass testing and quarantines while many other countries have chosen to live with the disease. Read more

For companies with huge industrial parks like Foxconn, this means keeping thousands of workers on site in so-called “closed-loop” systems to keep their production lines running.

“Food left for tens of thousands outside (the factory quarantine buildings),” said a worker surnamed Lee, 21.

Lee, still at the factory, said she was planning to quit smoking.

In a statement last Monday, Apple (AAPL.O) Supplier Foxconn said reports that 20,000 employees had been diagnosed with COVID were false.

The company told Reuters on Sunday afternoon in an emailed statement that workers were allowed to leave if they chose to. Read more

Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters on Monday for further comments.

Never come back

The unrest widened from China’s no-coronavirus policies to trade and industry in October as cases surged. Aside from Foxconn’s closure, Shanghai Disney Resort was closed from Monday to comply with anti-epidemic requirements, and visitors are still inside.

For Yuan, things came to a head when he heard that a workers’ housing complex near his factory had been cordoned off by security on Friday, and that the factory itself would be under a curfew the next day.

In a panic, Yuan decided to leave the next day, to join the streams of other runaway workers. It was not immediately clear whether the curfew was eventually imposed.

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By Sunday morning, Yuan had climbed to the banks of the Yellow River, the northern boundary of Zhengzhou, where he was stopped by authorities from the city of Xinxiang on the other side, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Hebei.

“I will never go back to Foxconn,” said Yuan, who has since been transferred to Hebei and placed under quarantine.

“Zhengzhou has made my heart shiver.”

Reporting by Ryan Wu. Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Ziyi Tang; Editing by Christian Schmolinger

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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