Foxconn to ease COVID-19 restrictions at China’s largest iPhone factory, end ‘closed-loop’ system

Foxconn to ease COVID-19 restrictions at China’s largest iPhone factory, end ‘closed-loop’ system

Foxconn to ease COVID-19 restrictions at China's largest iPhone factory, end 'closed-loop' system

The company that assembles Apple’s iPhones announced it was easing COVID-19 restrictions at its largest factory in China, leading thousands of workers to quit and dramatically slowing production.

Foxconn Technology said in a statement on one of its official WeChat social media accounts that it would end the so-called “closed-loop” system at the plant in Zhengzhou, central China, which forced workers to stay in their workplaces and dormitories to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.

The decision announced on Wednesday came about a week after China began easing tough COVID-19 restrictions despite signs that the number of infections is rising.

Following a series of protests across the country last month, many ‘zero-COVID’ restrictions have been lifted. This means that people no longer need to take frequent COVID-19 tests to travel on public transport. If they test positive for the virus, they can self-isolate at home if they have only mild or no symptoms instead of being sent to a quarantine centre.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government is still officially determined to stop transmission of the virus. But the government’s latest measures suggest authorities will tolerate more infections without quarantine or travel or business closures.

Thousands of workers at the sprawling Zhengzhou factory quit in late October following complaints about unsafe working conditions – such as food shortages due to cafeteria closures – and a virus outbreak at the factory.

The last quarter of the year is usually a busy season for companies like Foxconn as they ramp up production ahead of the holiday rush. Apple has warned that iPhone 14 shipments will be delayed due to manufacturing disruptions.

Foxconn, headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan, has been trying to rebuild its workforce after the massive walkout in late October. The company later ended up apologizing after a pay dispute sparked protests from workers who said Foxconn changed proposed wage terms to lure them into the plant.

In its announcement, the company said it would no longer provide free meals to workers as factory cafeterias would reopen. Instead, meal costs will be deducted from employees’ wages as usual, although workers who must quarantine after testing positive for the virus will still receive free meals.

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