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Chinese iPhone plant still under strict COVID curbs despite lift of lockdown

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Foxconn, the trading name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, is seen on top of the company's building in Taipei

By Albee Zhang and Ben Blanchard

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - An iPhone plant in China that has come to symbolise worker discontent with harsh COVID curbs will continue to isolate its operations and staff despite the lift of a seven-day lockdown for the rest of the industrial park in which it is located.

Taiwanese contract manufacturer Foxconn told Reuters on Wednesday its massive Zhengzhou plant in central China will maintain so-called closed-loop operations - a system where staff live and work on-site isolated from the wider world.

It did not say how long it expects the closed-loop system - imposed at the plant since mid-October - to remain in place.

The Zhengzhou plant is the world's largest iPhone factory with some 200,000 workers. In recent weeks, many have fled - their escapes captured on social media - frustrated over how COVID cases were handled and the treatment of employees including what they said were insufficient provisions of food.

The Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone - the industrial park housing the Foxconn plant and which has more than 600,000 residents in total - said it had lifted a district-wide lockdown as planned.

But it added that certain restrictions would remain especially in medium- to high-risk areas - defined in China as places where cases have recently been found or infected people have recently visited.

Its statement described an area that would be designated a "control area", whose residents would not be allowed to move around unless necessary. Reuters checks showed the area was the site of the Foxconn factory.

The curbs and discontent have hit production, prompting Apple Inc on Monday to say that it expects lower shipments of premium iPhone 14 models.

(Reporting by Albee Zhang in Beijing and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)