China strengthens repression, imposes a COVID-19 blockade on 600,000 people

emphasizes
  • Employees have complained online about poor conditions, lack of supplies, and the need to escape the factory on foot to avoid COVID-19 transportation curbs.
  • China is the latest major economy committed to a zero-COVID-19 strategy, which persists with sudden lockdowns, mass testing, and lengthy quarantines in an effort to eliminate emerging outbreaks.
  • More than 600,000 residents in a Zhengzhou city district will have to undergo nucleic acid tests every day.
Chinese authorities shut down 600,000 people in the area surrounding the world’s largest iPhone factory on Wednesday, as workers complained about disorderly COVID-19 controls at the facility.
All people, except COVID-19 prevention volunteers and essential workers, “must not leave their residences except to receive COVID testing and emergency medical care,” said airport economic zone officials. of Zhengzhou, in central China.

The move comes after images surfaced on Chinese social media last week showing people breaking out of the facility, which is run by Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn and which makes products for Apple.

Employees have complained online about poor conditions, lack of supplies, and the need to escape the factory on foot to avoid COVID-19 transportation curbs.
Foxconn says there are currently more than 200,000 workers at its Zhengzhou plant.
“Getting paid is no longer important, the most important thing is to survive,” a 30-year-old man working at Foxconn told AFP, saying he would stay at the factory because he was afraid of escalating an outbreak in his hometown.

“Anti-virus measures on campus are chaotic, virus-negative people live with virus-positive people,” said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous.

ChinaAppleSuppliers

In October 2017, workers participate in a safety training session at a factory of Catcher Technologies, a supplier of Apple Inc., in eastern China. sources: AAP / AP

He said the food provided to employees “didn’t fill up” and complained about the lack of medicine for sick colleagues.

China is the latest major economy committed to a zero-COVID-19 strategy, which persists with sudden lockdowns, mass testing, and lengthy quarantines in an effort to eliminate emerging outbreaks.
But new variants have tested local officials’ ability to extinguish flare-ups faster than they can spread, causing much of the country to live under an ever-changing patchwork of COVID-19 curbs.
The Zhengzhou City District said Wednesday that all companies would be required to work from home, with only “key firms” allowed to continue operating. It did not specify which activities fell into that category.

Only medical vehicles and those delivering essential items are allowed on the streets.

The more than 600,000 residents of the district will have to undergo nucleic acid tests every day, the local government said, warning that it “will resolutely crack down on all kinds of violations.”
The Dahe Daily, run by the Communist Party, said on Wednesday local authorities would “thoroughly disinfect” Foxconn facilities, including employee dormitories, over the next three days.
Quarantined workers at the factory are expected to show seven days of negative testing before leaving for their hometowns.
The newspaper also claimed that the government had promised to provide timely meals and to establish a hotline for worker advice.

Foxconn told AFP on Wednesday that its Zhengzhou park “remains closed-circuit,” without giving details.

The company said over the weekend it was testing employees daily and offering transportation to those who wanted to leave after social media videos showed employees walking along the freeways with their suitcases.
Footage shared with AFP by a Foxconn employee showed a large group of workers pushing suitcases down an empty street on Tuesday afternoon, towards a line of people in fireproof overalls.
The Zhengzhou plant accounts for about 80 percent of iPhone 14 production, senior analyst Ivan Lam of Counterpoint Research told AFP. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the AFP.

Local governments in the area surrounding the city of Zhengzhou have asked Foxconn workers to register with the authorities if they return home and complete several days of quarantine upon arrival.

The company also said Tuesday that it will quadruple bonuses for employees willing to stay at the factory during the outbreak.
Chinese social media users on Wednesday accused Zhengzhou authorities of “performatively” lifting the COVID-19 restrictions after the city announced the day before that it would “restore normal production and life.”
“In the morning you lift the lockdown, then at night you lock yourself up again, what are you trying to do?” Weibo user Taoixing asked.
China reported more than 2,000 new home infections on Wednesday for the third consecutive day. Henan province, where Zhengzhou is located, officially reported 359 COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, a jump from 104 on Tuesday.
Guangzhou’s South China Manufacturing Center also announced partial lockdowns in several districts this week in response to the increased number of cases.

According to analysts at Capital Economics, the number of people quarantined in China is at the highest level since the Shanghai lockdown in the spring, with outbreaks in more than 50 cities.