Apple’s iPhone assembler has announced that it is easing COVID-19 restrictions at its largest factory in China, laying off thousands of workers and slowing production dramatically.
Foxconn Technology said in a statement on one of the WeChat accounts on social media that it would end the so-called “closed-loop” system at the facility in Zhengzhou, central China, that requires workers to stay in their workplaces and dormitories to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The move announced on Wednesday comes about a week after China began easing harsh COVID-19 containment measures despite signs the number of infections is rising.
After a series of protests across the country last month, many “no COVID” restrictions have been lifted. That means people no longer need to take regular COVID-19 tests to get around on public transport. If they test positive for the virus, they can isolate at home if they have only mild symptoms or no symptoms instead of being sent to a quarantine center.
The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping remains officially committed to preventing the spread of the virus. But the government’s latest moves suggest authorities will accept more infections without quarantining or shutting down travel or business activities.
Thousands of workers at the giant Zhengzhou factory went on strike in late October over complaints about unsafe working conditions – such as food shortages due to the closure of the cafeteria – and the virus outbreak. at the factory.
The final quarter of the year is usually a busy one for companies like Foxconn as they ramp up production ahead of the peak of the year-end holiday season. Apple has warned that iPhone 14 deliveries will be delayed due to production disruptions.
Foxconnbased in New Taipei City, Taiwan, was trying to rebuild its workforce after a massive strike in late October. The company later had to apologize after a dispute over wages sparked protests by workers, who allege that Foxconn changed the terms of wages offered to attract them to the factory.
In its announcement, the company said it would no longer provide free meals to workers as the factory cafeteria will reopen. Instead, meal costs will be deducted from employees’ wages as usual, although workers who must isolate after testing positive for the virus will still receive free meals.