China corona cases record high now, lockdown in Zhengzhou after protests

Zhengzhou, a central Chinese city home to a vast iPhone factory, was ordered an effective COVID-19 lockdown for several districts after violent protests that saw demonstrators clash with police erupted at the facility.

The development comes amid a worsening situation in the country as mainland China reported more than 31,000 Covid infections for Wednesday, including cases without symptoms.

Hence, the latest figures surpassed the 29,317 high seen in mid-April, during the Shanghai lockdown.

But daily Covid infections with symptoms remain well below the high seen in April. Nearly 90% or more of total Covid cases reported in recent days have been asymptomatic, the data showed.

Residents of Zhengzhou’s city centre cannot leave the area unless they have a negative COVID-19 test and permission from authorities, and are advised not to leave their homes “unless necessary”, the local government said.

The restrictions, which will last five days from midnight Friday, affect more than six million people – about half the city’s population.

The government notice also requires the residents of eight districts to take a nucleic acid test every day during the five-day period.

Zhengzhou’s order came after violent protests broke out at the city’s vast iPhone factory complex.

The factory, owned by Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, has itself been under COVID-19 restrictions for over a month amid spiralling cases in its worker dormitories.

Footage emerged last month of panicking workers fleeing the site on foot in the wake of allegations of poor conditions at the facility.

Zhengzhou, the national capital of Beijing and the southwestern municipality of Chongqing have been the hardest hit in the latest Covid wave.

But nearly all of China’s 31 province-level regions have reported new Covid infections, with and without symptoms, each day.

Since the weekend, six Covid-related deaths have been reported as of Wednesday, mostly in Beijing.

What the China protests mean for Apple

China’s stringent Covid controls have weighed on sentiment and business activity. National GDP barely grew during the second quarter due to the Shanghai lockdowns. As of the end of the third quarter, growth for the year was up by just 3% from a year ago — well below the official target of around 5.5% announced in March.

Factories located near Covid outbreaks have tried to maintain operations using what’s called closed-loop management, which typically requires staff to live on-site.

Business representatives have noted difficulties in getting workers from locked down neighborhoods to factories, while staff living at production sites for too long often become fatigued.

During the latest Covid wave, Apple supplier Foxconn’s iPhone factory in the city of Zhengzhou has drawn attention for videos of renewed worker unrest shared on social media. It was unclear how many of the factory’s roughly 200,000 staff were involved, or whether there was any impact to production.

Foxconn said Wednesday that some new hires had appealed to the company about a work allowance, while stating that contrary to speculation, new hires would only move into disinfected dormitories.

Separately, Zhengzhou said those living in the central part of the city should not leave their homes for five days beginning Friday while authorities conducted mass virus testing.

China this month trimmed quarantine times and has announced other measures to try to make Covid controls more targeted. But authorities have emphasized their zero-Covid policy, while there are concerns whether the public health system could handle a surge in infections.

Targeted Covid measures

The latest Covid controls on in-person business and apartment building lockdowns are scattered across parts of China, a country of 1.4 billion people. Fewer measures are publicly announced, while restrictions are increasingly targeted and can range from just a few days — to weeks or longer.

For example, Shanghai Disneyland said it plans to resume operations on Friday, after suspending operations due to Covid on Oct. 31.

Meanwhile, despite tighter restrictions in Beijing’s business district, Universal Beijing Resort on the city outskirts remains open, after a five-day closure that ended Oct. 31.

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