Foxconn's Plans to Restart Apple Device Production on Monday Were Called Off By Chinese Health Authorities [Updated]
Foxconn was originally planning to reopen its factories on Monday to begin production on Apple devices after the Lunar New Year holiday, but the company's plans were denied by Chinese Authorities due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, reports Nikkei.
Public health experts told Foxconn that its Shenzhen factories face "high risks of coronavirus infection" after on-site inspections were conducted, with the information relayed to Nikkei through multiple sources. Health officials were concerned about the poor airflow in restaurants and dormitories, and the use of central air conditioning.
"Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty," the internal meeting memo seen by the Nikkei Asian Review said.
Foxconn's Zhengzhou complex, which is its biggest iPhone factory, has also cancelled plans to resume work on Monday. Local governments are concerned the virus will spread quickly in a labor-intensive working environment, and "no one wants to bear the responsibility of restarting work at this critical moment," one of the sources said.
Foxconn on Friday cancelled flight bookings for Taiwanese employees to go back to China, and the company already told employees in Shenzhen not to return to work.
The Zhengzhou complex will remain closed until it has until it has been evaluated and approved by the local government. Innolux, Foxconn's display arm, will also remain closed for the time being, and iPad supplier Compal Electronics also has plans to stay closed until February 17.
Apple has also extended the shutdown of its own retail stores in China. Stores were supposed to open on Monday, but Apple has decided to wait until February 15.
There have already been multiple reports suggesting these factory closures will have an impact on Apple's device production plans, and we could see dwindling device supplies and lengthening shipping times in the near future. AirPods and AirPods Pro could be impacted as a product already in short supply, and these delays may also affect the upcoming low-cost iPhone that Apple has in development.
Production on the new low-cost iPhone, which has been referred to the "iPhone SE 2" or the "iPhone 9" was supposed to begin in February, but it's not clear if Apple will be able to remain on schedule.
Foxconn told Nikkei that its operation schedules for facilities in China follow local government recommendations, and that it has not "received requests from [its] customers on the need to resume production earlier," but it did slash its 2020 revenue outlook earlier this month.
The coronavirus has infected more than 31,000 people and caused 722 deaths, mainly in China.
Update: Chinese officials have denied preventing Foxconn's plans to reopen. In a statement seen by Reuters, health authorities in Shenzhen's Longhua district where Foxconn's largest factory is located said that the report was untrue and that it was still conducting checks.
Production at Foxconn facilities will restart when inspections have been completed, and Foxconn has submitted coronavirus prevention proposals that include temperature checks, requiring employees to wearing masks, and implementing a safe dining system.