Reports and videos online appear to show factory workers at Apple's largest assembly site in Zhengzhou China climbing over barbed wire fences and fleeing factory campuses to avoid COVID-19 lockdown measures, with some reportedly walking more than 100 kilometers back to their hometowns.
Zhengzhou, colloquially referred to as "iPhone city", is home to Foxconn's largest assembly plant where Apple manufactures all of its best iPhone models including the new iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro. The plant is reportedly home to around 300,000 staff.
Images shared by the BBC's Stephen McDonell appear to show workers from the site scaling barbed wire fences to escape. McDonell reports that "workers have broken out of Apple’s largest assembly site, escaping the Zero Covid lockdown at Foxconn in Zhengzhou.
Workers have broken out of #Apple’s largest assembly site, escaping the Zero #Covid lockdown at Foxconn in #Zhengzhou. After sneaking out, they’re walking to home towns more than 100 kilometres away to beat the Covid app measures designed to control people and stop this. #China pic.twitter.com/NHjOjclAyUOctober 30, 2022
McDonnell reports that workers are "walking to home towns more than 100 kilometers away" in order to beat China's COVID app. Further images and reports for the region appear to show that some escaped employees were detained "while trying to get home." McDonell shared images of workers who were picked up by passing cars.
According to McDonell's report, the breakout "followed what workers felt was misleading information from bosses about Covid cases inside the massive factory complex," noting one worker who fled after she was denied leave.
Reuters reports that the stringent measures could have a massive impact on iPhone production, which "could slump by as much as 30%" at the site next month. Foxconn is reportedly scrambling to boost production in Shenzhen to compensate.
Images shared on Weibo appear to confirm McDonell's report, showing workers lining roads and riding in the back of trucks.
Some incredible images circulating on Weibo right now. Young Foxconn workers WALKING home from the factory in Zhengzhou, where an outbreak is causing lockdowns. Some picked up by truck drivers, riding in the back of the bed. Looks like a different era pic.twitter.com/BvnxcBn6JWOctober 30, 2022
Last week it was reported that "a small number of employees" had been affected by the virus and that strict lockdown measures were in place. According to Bloomberg, Foxconn is preparing to bring backup production online and raise hourly wages by 36% to stem the exodus.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9