Chinese workers flee COVID lockdown at huge iPhone factory, potentially putting Apple in a bind as the holiday season draws near

Foxconn has locked down its plant in Zhengzhou.
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty Images

Workers at the Foxconn manufacturing facility in China, a key facility for Apple’s iPhone, have been seen fleeing the plant after a COVID outbreak triggered a lockdown.

It’s unclear how many cases of COVID have been identified at the facility, but with China’s strict zero-COVID policy, the workplace ordered a lockdown. Video shared online showed roughly 10 people jumping a fence outside the plant. Officials, on Sunday, said the company would not stop workers from leaving.

While there have been some reports of as many as 20,000 COVID cases at the plant, Foxconn has denied those, reports CNBC.

Those who have tested positive will be transported to several days of mandatory isolation, Bloomberg reports.

Foxconn is Apple’s largest assembly factory for the iPhone—and the lockdown comes as the holiday season, typically one of the hottest selling periods of the year, approaches. Officials, though, say they expect the overall impact to be limited, as the company is shifting production to other sites.

Last week, Apple said demand for the new iPhone 14 Pro models was particularly strong, but supplies were constrained.

The lockdown means hundreds of thousands of workers in the Zhengzhou facility have been subject to “closed loop operations,” meaning they’re only able to travel from their dormitories and the production lines. That has led some workers to depart the site or refuse to return to work.

On Saturday, cities surrounding Zhengzhou told Foxconn workers to report to local authorities before they headed home.

Apple has been working to shift more of its production outside of China as a result of the country’s policies. Earlier this year, a two-month lockdown in Shanghai resulted in supply-chain disruptions for the company.

This latest disruption is hitting businesses beyond Foxconn and Apple. On Monday, officials ordered Shanghai Disney Resort to close (following a multi-month shutdown earlier this year). Universal Beijing Resort was also closed last week.

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