BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Central Chinese cities have hastily drawn up plans to isolate migrant workers fleeing home from a huge assembly plant of iPhone maker Foxconn. (2317.TW) in COVID-hit Zhengzhou for fear they could trigger coronavirus outbreaks.
Zhengzhou, capital of the central province of Henan, reported 167 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in the seven days to Oct. 1. 29, up from 97 infections in the previous seven-day period.
Apple (AAPL.O) Taiwan-based supplier Foxconn currently has around 200,000 workers at its Zhengzhou compound and has not disclosed the number of infected workers, but said on Sunday it would not prevent workers from leaving.
Late on Saturday, cities near Zhengzhou, including Yuzhou, Changge and Qinyang, urged Foxconn workers to inform local authorities in advance before returning home.
Returning workers must travel “point to point” in pre-arranged vehicles and must be quarantined upon arrival, they said in separate letters on their respective social media accounts addressed to Zhengzhou Foxconn workers.
Under China’s ultra-strict zero COVID policy, cities are mandated to act quickly to quell any outbreak, with measures that could include large-scale lockdowns. 10 Oct 19, Foxconn forbidden all dine in dining rooms and require workers to eat their meals in their bedrooms.
“The government has agreed to resume dine-in meals to improve employee comfort and life satisfaction,” Foxconn told Reuters in an emailed response to inquiries on Sunday.
“At the same time, for some employees who want to return home, the (plant) is cooperating with the government to organize staff and vehicles to provide an orderly point-to-point return service for employees starting today.”
Disruptions from China’s COVID policies in commerce and industry have intensified in recent weeks as cases multiply. Shanghai Disneyland it said on Saturday it would operate at reduced capacity. On Wednesday, Beijing Universal Resort was suspended after a visit from an infected individual.
“We are well aware that in the current situation, it is a protracted battle,” Foxconn said.
But the situation was gradually coming under control, he said, and Foxconn would coordinate backup production capacity with its other plants to reduce any potential impact.
Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Foxconn situation.
‘I CAN’T STOP FEELING SAD’
Foxconn did not respond to questions from Reuters about how many cases had been detected at its Zhengzhou plant and how many workers had left.
Photographs and videos circulating on Chinese social media since Saturday show Foxconn workers, apparently returning to their homes, walking through fields during the day and along highways at night. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the posts.
In a show of support, surrounding residents left bottles of water and groceries alongside roads with signs reading: “For Foxconn workers coming home,” according to social media posts.
“Some people were walking in the middle of wheat fields with their luggage, blankets and duvets,” a WeChat user wrote in a post about the social media images.
“I couldn’t help but feel sad.”
Reporting by Ryan Woo and Ziyi Tang; Edited by Edmund Klamann and Nick Macfie
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