Apple’s main iPhone assembler Foxconn has told employees not to return to work at its Shenzhen facility in China when the extended Lunar New Year break ends on February 10, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg.
“To safeguard everyone’s health and safety and comply with government virus prevention measures, we urge you not to return to Shenzhen,” Foxconn wrote in a text message sent to employees. “We’ll update you on the situation in the city. The company will protect everyone’s work-related rights and interests in the duration. As for the happy reunion date in Shenzhen, please wait for further notice.”
Foxconn has reportedly halted almost all of its production in China as the government and businesses attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country, where more than 31,000 cases have been reported so far.
It’s unclear whether the Shenzhen policy extends to all employees or to Foxconn’s other facilities. Earlier this week, the iPhone manufacturer said it planned to resume full-scale production by February 10. Other Apple suppliers such as Quanta Computer, Inventec and LG Display also said they would go back to work next week in China, but sticking to that plan seems less certain by the day.
“As a matter of policy and for reasons of commercial sensitivity, we do not comment on our specific production facilities,” Foxconn told Bloomberg. “We have been closely monitoring the current public health challenge linked to the coronavirus and we are applying all recommended health and hygiene practices to all aspects of our operations in the affected markets.”
Foxconn has slashed its 2020 revenue outlook after strict quarantines at its main base in China to guard against the coronavirus outbreak. The company has adopted a quarantine policy so that workers returning from outside Henan province will be sequestered for 14 days, while staff who reside within the province will be isolated for one week.
The timing of the coronavirus outbreak could impact supply of the new lower-cost iPhone that Apple is expected to announce in March. Bloomberg recently reported that production of the device was slated to begin in February, but the coronavirus outbreak could delay that timeframe.
Apple typically sources components from multiple suppliers, and Foxconn has factories outside of China, so it’s likely that Apple will still release the lower-cost iPhone in March, even if supply is limited at launch.