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Foxconn shutdown over coronavirus threatens iPhone production

Published Feb 4th, 2020 6:11PM EST
coronavirus foxconn
Image: Zach Epstein for BGR

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As the new strain of coronavirus continues to spread across huge chunks of China, the outbreak’s impact on the world at large is growing more and more obvious. There’s obviously the risk that the virus could spread to even more countries, but even if it remains largely contained within China, that could mean a dramatic impact on the companies that rely on Chinese labor for manufacturing.

Apple is one such company, with Foxconn facilities in China responsible for producing millions of Apple smartphones. Now, with China locking down cities and extending downtime for the lunar holiday, the fight against the virus is reportedly making Apple feel the pinch.

As Reuters reports, Foxconn is bracing for serious downtime and disruption in its production capabilities, with the decision to extend the widespread shutdown of its operations in China until at least February 10th. Even then, there’s no guarantee that work at Foxconn’s manufacturing facilities will resume, as officials continue to monitor the spread of the virus.

Foxconn’s manufacturing presence in China is massive, with hundreds of thousands of workers filling the company’s factories and working tirelessly to assemble and test all manner of consumer technology, including Apple’s iPhones.

With a viral outbreak in the country, the idea of asking that many workers to sit in confined spaces and work for hours on end sounds like the beginnings of a disaster movie, and a workforce riddled with pneumonia-like symptoms would be devastating for the company. Foxconn will obviously do whatever it can to keep that from happening, but balancing worker health and safety with the expectations of its tech clients is tricky, to say the least. In the meantime, local officials will ultimately decide when companies can consider inviting their employees back to work.

Based on reports from China, the death toll of the new coronavirus is around 500, with tens of thousands of confirmed infections. Those statistics have been strongly disputed by some in China who claim the numbers are being intentionally downplayed for an international audience.