World: Workers leave iPhone factory in Zhengzhou amid COVID curbs

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HONG KONG (AP) — Workers who assemble Apple Inc.’s new iPhone have walked out of their factory in northern China to avoid COVID-19 curbs after some coworkers were quarantined following a virus outbreak.

In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP) © Provided by The Associated Press In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP)

Videos circulating on Chinese social media platforms showed people said to be Foxconn workers climbing over fences and walking down a road laden with their belongings.

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The scenes underscore growing public discontent with China’s “zero-COVID” strategy, where the government seeks to stamp out outbreaks by implementing strict testing, isolation and lockdown measures where infections are detected.

In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP) © Provided by The Associated Press In this photo taken from video footage and released by Hangpai Xingyang, people with suitcases and bags are seen leaving from a Foxconn compound in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. Workers in a Foxconn facility in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou appear to have left the facility to avoid COVID-19 curbs, with many traveling by foot days after an unknown number of factory workers were quarantined in the facility following a virus outbreak. (Hangpai Xingyang via AP)

Outbreaks have led to entire cities going into lockdown. In the latest wave of infections, Shanghai Disney Resort said Monday that it would close as of Monday for an indefinite amount of time “to follow the requirement of pandemic prevention and control.”

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In an online notice, the park apologized for the inconvenience and said it would provide refunds or exchanges for those affected by its closure.

A man wearing a face mask holds his testing tube as masked residents line up for their routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) © Provided by The Associated Press A man wearing a face mask holds his testing tube as masked residents line up for their routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, Henan province, can accommodate up to 350,000 workers and is one of the largest factories in China assembling products for Apple Inc., including its latest iPhone 14 devices.

Not all the videos that showed workers purportedly leaving the facility could be verified. It was unclear if the workers leaving the facility had escaped or if they were allowed to leave.

Foxconn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Volunteers from nearby villages put out food and drinks for the Foxconn workers. One such volunteer, who asked to be identified only by his surname Zhang out of privacy concerns, was put in charge of distributing supplies that his village in Xingyang county had prepared. He said that the people shown in a video he uploaded to the short-video platform Douyin were Foxconn workers because they would have to take that road if they were leaving the facility.

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Motorists wearing face masks ride their electric-powered scooters on a street during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) © Provided by The Associated Press Motorists wearing face masks ride their electric-powered scooters on a street during the morning rush hour in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

It was unclear how many people are currently employed at the Zhengzhou factory, how many of them have left and how many were affected by factory's COVID-19 curbs.

Commuters wearing face masks walk through the plastic curtain as they exit a subway station in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) © Provided by The Associated Press Commuters wearing face masks walk through the plastic curtain as they exit a subway station in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Earlier this week, media reports said the factory had implemented a “closed-loop” system largely restricting workers to movements between their residences and the plant.

Local media reports said that Foxconn workers complained of poor food quality and a lack of medical care for those who tested positive amid worries infections could be spreading. The company denied rumors that 20,000 people in the plant had been infected with COVID-19.

A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) © Provided by The Associated Press A man gets his routine COVID-19 throat swabs at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Cities near Zhengzhou have urged Foxconn workers to report to local authorities if they plan to return to their hometowns to allow preparation of appropriate isolation measures.

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A food delivery rider wearing a face mask rides past communist symbol of stars on display outside a restaurant in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) © Provided by The Associated Press A food delivery rider wearing a face mask rides past communist symbol of stars on display outside a restaurant in Beijing, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Posts on the Zhengzhou government’s public WeChat account said Foxconn issued notices Sunday to workers at the factory, pledging to ensure the safety, legitimate rights and incomes of those who stayed.

A day after the videos circulated of workers leaving the factory on foot, Foxconn and several local governments arranged transportation for employees choosing to return home. It wasn't clear how much choice they were given in the matter.

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AP video producer Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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