Chaos in Apple supplier Quanta shows strains of Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdown

Quanta Shanghai Manufacturing City may look like an ideal location to implement a “closed-loop” management system in China to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that requires employees to live and work on-site in a safe bubble.

The campus spans 20 football fields, housing the factories and living quarters for 40,000 workers, some of whom live 12 per room, and even a supermarket.

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But with COVID-19 shattering Quanta’s defenses, order collapsed into chaos on Thursday.

Videos posted online showed more than a hundred Quanta workers physically defeating security guards in hazmat suits and jumping over factory gates to escape being trapped inside the factory amid rumors that workers on the ground that day had tested positive for the COVID virus.

The turmoil in Quanta highlights the difficulties Shanghai faces in getting its factories, many of which are key links in global supply chains, back up and running even as much of the city of 25 million people remains locked down under China’s “zero dynamic” COVID policy.

Taiwan-based Quanta assembles about three-quarters of Apple’s global production of MacBooks and also manufactures computer circuit boards for Tesla.

Quanta did not respond to a request for comment on the videos that appeared on Chinese social media platforms before they were removed. Apple declined to comment, and Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Quanta set up a closed loop to restart the plant on April 18 with about 5% of its workforce, or 2,000 employees, with plans to triple that by April 22. Chinese state media described the restart as an example of how Shanghai was. Keeping businesses open in the nation’s largest economic hub, while adhering to strict COVID measures.

daily cases

But cases were reported daily at a campus address from March 26 to May 4, according to Shanghai government data. Quanta did not disclose the number of cases among its workers.

Calls seeking help to draw attention to positive cases not isolated in Quanta began appearing on Weibo from April 6, five days after Shanghai implemented a citywide lockdown.

More emerged over the course of the month and employees began posting photos and accounts on Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, that showed dozens of workers queuing for buses to take them to central quarantine facilities.

They also took videos of themselves resting at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, one of the city’s largest quarantine centers, as well as in a purpose-built facility to house Quanta workers.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the footage, but two employees and a person familiar with campus operations said there were multiple infections.

“Each dormitory reported a few positive cases a day, and eventually everyone came back positive,” said one worker, who gave his surname as Li, adding that there were eight cases in his room, incl.

Staff said cases were often not isolated for days after they tested positive, and a person with first-hand knowledge of campus operations said there were not enough isolation spaces, perpetuating infections.

That was the cause of the chaos Thursday night, employees said, as rumors of positive cases spread among factory workers.

Workers were horrified by an order not to return to their dormitories, prompting fears they might be locked up inside the factory.

While videos of the brawl were removed by this weekend, discussion continued on Weibo and Douyin, with one user simply saying, “What a mess.”

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