Chinese cities brace for a wave of Foxconn workers from coronavirus-hit Zhengzhou

BEIJING (Reuters) – Cities in central China hastily drawn up plans to isolate migrant workers fleeing to their hometowns from a massive assembly facility for iPhone maker Foxconn (2317.TW) in the coronavirus-hit city of Zhengzhou, fearing it could cause an outbreak of the coronavirus. . .

Zhengzhou, the capital of central Henan Province, reported 167 cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 in the seven days to October 29, up from 97 in the previous seven-day period.

Apple supplier Foxconn (AAPL.O), based in Taiwan, currently has about 200,000 workers at its Zhengzhou complex and has not disclosed the number of infected workers, but said on Sunday it would not prevent workers from leaving.

Late Saturday, cities near Zhengzhou, including Liuzhou, Changjie and Qinyang, urged Foxconn workers to inform local authorities in advance before returning home.

In separate messages on their social media accounts addressed to Zhengzhou Foxconn workers, they said the returning workers would travel “point to point” in pre-arranged cars and would be isolated upon arrival.

Under China’s very strict policy on not spreading the coronavirus, cities are empowered to act quickly to quell any outbreak, with measures that could include widespread lockdowns. On October 19, Foxconn banned food in canteens and required workers to eat their meals in their dormitories.

“The government has agreed to resume meals to improve the comfort and satisfaction of employees’ lives,” Foxconn told Reuters in an email response to inquiries on Sunday.

“At the same time, for some employees who want to go home, (the factory) is cooperating with the government to organize personnel and vehicles to provide a point-to-point organized return service for employees starting today.”

Turmoil has intensified from China’s policies on the coronavirus to trade and industry in recent weeks with cases doubling. Shanghai Disneyland said on Saturday it would operate at a reduced capacity. On Wednesday, Universal Resort Beijing was suspended after visiting an infected person.

“We are well aware that given the current situation, it is a protracted battle,” Foxconn said.

She said the situation is gradually coming under control, and Foxconn will coordinate spare capacity with its other plants to minimize any potential impact.

Apple did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Foxconn’s status.

“I couldn’t help but feel sad.”

Foxconn did not respond to Reuters questions about the number of cases detected at its Zhengzhou plant and the number of workers who have left.

Pictures and videos circulating on Chinese social media since Saturday have apparently shown Foxconn workers returning home, strolling through fields by day and along roads at night. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the posts.

In a show of support, residents in the vicinity left bottled water and supplies next to roads with signs such as: “For Foxconn workers returning home,” according to social media posts.

“Some people were walking through wheat fields carrying their luggage, blankets and quilts,” one WeChat user wrote in a post about social media photos.

“I can’t help but feel sad.”

(Reporting by Ryan Wu and Ziyi Tang) Editing by Edmund Kellman and Nick McPhee

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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