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after the riots at Foxconn, 6 million people confined

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Zhengzhou, a city in central China which hosts a huge iPhone factory, ordered the confinement of 6 million people on Thursday, November 24 after an outbreak of Covid-19 which led to violent demonstrations on the industrial site.

Hundreds of workers marched past the factory on Wednesday and faced police, who were armed with batons and dressed in full white protective suits. In the aftermath, Zhengzhou authorities ordered a major screening campaign in several districts of the city. These neighborhoods are confined for five days from Friday midnight.

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Clearly, residents of the city center are no longer allowed to leave the area without a negative PCR test and permission from local authorities. They are advised not to leave their homes, “unless necessary”.

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These measures concern several districts, affecting about half of the inhabitants of Zhengzhou. They do not cover the area of ​​the iPhone factory, where workers have already been subject to restrictions for several weeks.

A worker told AFP that the protests started because of a controversy over the amount of a bonus promised to workers at the factory, owned by Taiwanese giant Foxconn, Apple’s main subcontractor. According to this worker, the bonus would have gone from 3,000 to 30 yuan (from 400 to 4 euros), which would have caused great dissatisfaction among the staff.

Several employees are also exasperated by the living conditions “chaotic” on the site due to anti-Covid restrictions, said this worker, who wants to remain anonymous to avoid possible reprisals.

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Foxconn apologized on Thursday, assuring that a “technical error” in its payment system was the source of the problem around bonuses. The group said “completely understand” concerns of workers.

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“The company will also do its best to proactively resolve reasonable employee concerns and requests.”, said the Taiwanese company. Last month, workers, panicked by the unexpected confinement of the factory, had fled the site on foot, some complaining of the disorganization reigning on the spot.

As part of the strict “zero Covid” health policy that China tirelessly applies, the slightest increase in cases leads to the closure of entire cities and the placing of those who test positive in quarantine.

New record of positive people in 24 hours

But this strategy today arouses the weariness and resentment of a large part of the population. And the number of infections is skyrocketing. The Ministry of Health announced this Thursday a new record for the number of people tested positive in 24 hours, at 31,444 local cases – including 27,517 asymptomatic.

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This number exceeds the previous record (29,317) recorded in mid-April, when the Shanghai metropolis was confined. However, these figures appear low in view of the Chinese population (1.4 billion inhabitants) and the records observed in Western countries.

“The road to reopening could be slow, expensive and bumpy”

The government announced on November 11 a “optimization” anti-Covid restrictions, with the relaxation of several measures, including the reduction of the duration of quarantines, in particular for travelers arriving from abroad.

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But Shijiazhuang, a township neighboring Beijing that was considered a pilot city to test this reopening strategy, has backtracked on most of the relaxations – as have other localities. “The road to reopening could be slow, expensive and bumpy”estimated in a note Ting Lu, economist for Nomura bank.

China has yet to approve the use of messenger RNA vaccines, which are believed to be more effective. Another black spot: only 85% of people over 60 had received two doses of vaccine by mid-August, according to health authorities.

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