《TAIPEI TIMES》 Chaos at Apple supplier Quanta shows the strains of lockdown in Shanghai
Quanta Computer Inc’s logo is pictured outside the company’s headquarters in New Taipei City’s Linkou District in an undated photograph. Photo: Screenshot from Quanta’s Web site
/ Reuters, SHANGHAI
Quanta Shanghai Manufacturing City （QSMC, 廣達上海製造城） would seem like an ideal site to implement China’s “closed loop” management system, meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, that requires staff to live and work on-site in a secure bubble.
Sprawled over land the size of 20 football fields, the campus houses factories, living quarters for 40,000 workers and a supermarket.
Yet as COVID-19 breached Quanta’s defenses, the system turned into chaos on Thursday.
Videos posted online showed more than 100 Quanta workers physically overwhelming security guards in hazmat suits and vaulting over factory gates to avoid being trapped inside the factory amid rumors that workers that day tested positive for the virus.
The turmoil at Quanta underscores the struggles Shanghai faces to get its factories, many of them key links in global supply chains, back up to speed, even as much of the city remains locked down under China’s “zero COVID” policy.
Taiwan-based Quanta Computer Inc （廣達電腦） assembles about three-quarters of Apple Inc’s global MacBook production, and also makes circuit boards for Tesla Inc.
Quanta set up a closed loop to restart work at the factory on April 18 using about 5 percent of its workers, or 2,000 employees, with plans to triple that by April 22.
Chinese state media touted the restart as an example of how Shanghai was keeping business running while adhering to stringent COVID-19 measures.
However, cases have been reported daily at an address belonging to the campus from March 26 to Wednesday, Shanghai government data showed.
Calls seeking help to bring attention to positive cases that were not being isolated at Quanta began appearing on Weibo from April 6, five days after Shanghai implemented a city-wide lockdown.
Employees began posting photos and reports on Douyin （抖音）, known as TikTok outside China, showing dozens of workers lining up for buses to be taken to central quarantine facilities.
They also took videos of themselves resting in Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Center, one of the city’s largest quarantine centers, as well as at a facility purpose-built to house Quanta workers.
Two employees and a person with knowledge of the campus’ operations said there were multiple infections there.
“Each dormitory reported a few positive cases a day, and eventually everyone became positive,” said one of the two workers, who gave his surname as Li （李）, adding that there were eight cases in his room, including himself.
Employees said that cases were often not isolated for days after testing positive, and one source said there were not enough isolation spaces, resulting in infections.
That was a trigger for Thursday night’s chaos, employees said, as rumors spread that positive cases had been found in the factories.
The workers were spooked by an order telling them not to return to their dormitories, raising fears that they could be locked down inside the plant.
While videos of the confrontation were removed, discussion continued online, with one user simply saying: “What a mess.”