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iPhone maker Foxconn tells Shenzhen staff not to return to work

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As it ramps up production on medical face masks

2nd China International Import Expo (CIIE) - Day 2 Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

iPhone manufacturer Foxconn has told employees at its Shenzhen HQ not to return to work on February 10th as planned, but to await further instruction, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, a Foxconn subsidiary has refitted production lines in Shenzhen to make medical face masks for Foxconn workers, according to Reuters. Both developments are meant to protect Foxconn workers and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Foxconn manufactures the majority of its iPhones in a separate location north of Shenzhen, in Zhengzhou, while others are assembled by Pegatron outside of Shanghai. Only a small amount are made by Foxconn in Shenzhen. Bloomberg says it’s unclear if the Shenzhen policy extends to Foxconn’s other facilities.

“To safeguard everyone’s health and safety and comply with government virus prevention measures, we urge you not to return to Shenzhen,” the company wrote in a text message to employees, and seen by Bloomberg, “We’ll update you on the situation in the city. The company will protect everyone’s work-related rights and interests in the duration.”

Foxconn has also refit some of its production lines to produce medical face masks, according to Reuters. The masks will initially be produced for use by its hundreds of thousands of employees, but by the end of the month the company hopes to be making two million masks a day.

As a major iPhone manufacturing partner, and China’s largest private employer, Foxconn’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak is seen as a key indicator of what impact the virus could have on the tech industry. Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility is meant to return to production on February 10th, although the company had said that employees returning from outside the province will be sequestered for 14 days, reports Bloomberg.