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China shuts down iPhone factories in effort to halt coronavirus


Cleaning up: Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a railway station in Changsha, Hunan province. Photo: Reuters

Cleaning up: Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a railway station in Changsha, Hunan province. Photo: Reuters


Cleaning up: Volunteers in protective suits disinfect a railway station in Changsha, Hunan province. Photo: Reuters

Supplies of iPhones and other consumer electronics are under threat as Chinese authorities struggle to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 425 people.

Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer of the iPhone, has closed almost all its factories in China after firms were reportedly told to shut until at least next Tuesday.

The closure could result in a "big" impact on production and shipments to customers if it extends into a second week, one source told Reuters.

Ralph Lauren also said yesterday it was closing about half its 110 stores in China and Royal Caribbean suspended eight cruises, warning of a $50m (€45m) hit to profits amid rising fears over the virus's impact on the global economy.


‘People’s war on epidemic’: Chinese President Xi Jinping

‘People’s war on epidemic’: Chinese President Xi Jinping

While Larry Kudlow, the White House chief economic adviser, insisted the coronavirus crisis would have only a "minimal impact on supply chains, not a catastrophe", he added that some shortages were likely.

"The coronavirus could spur a step-up in US production," he told Fox Business Network.

Nurses and doctors treat patients arriving at the new hospital in Wuhan. The hospital was built in 10 days as part of China's sweeping efforts to fight a viral outbreak that is causing global alarm. Wuhan continues to be on lockdown and is barring anyone from leaving.

The economic concerns were heightened as the UK Foreign Office yesterday advised the estimated 30,000 Britons in China to leave the country, days after the US raised its travel warning to the highest possible level.

In Hong Kong, calls were growing to seal the Chinese border after a 39-year-old man with underlying health issues, who had recently travelled to Wuhan, became the first to die in the city from the coronavirus and the second so far outside mainland China.

A hospital strike involving more than 2,000 Hong Kong health workers and demanding tighter border controls defied pleas from public hospital chiefs for staff to return to work.

"We just want to close the border to protect our local people. It's essential any non-residents are blocked from entering, especially if they have any recent history in the infected area of the virus," said a physiotherapist who is a member of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance.

On Monday, China admitted "shortcomings" in its response to the virus, a rare admission of fallibility from the country's Communist leadership.

The elite Politburo standing committee acknowledged "shortcomings and difficulties exposed in the response to the epidemic", and called for improvements to the "national emergency management system" at the meeting, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The government also said it "urgently" needed medical equipment such as surgical masks, protective suits and safety goggles and pledged to "severely crack down" on illegal wildlife markets and trade.

Actions already taken by China, including putting millions of people effectively under lockdown for almost two weeks at the virus epicentre, have been hailed by the World Health Organisation as providing a "window of opportunity" to prevent the virus spreading further.

The virus has so far spread to more than 20 countries and prompted several governments to restrict travel to China, including the UK.

Yesterday, President Xi Jinping told top Communist officials: "We have launched a people's war of prevention of the epidemic," adding those neglecting their duty would be punished.

Medical teams from the People's Liberation Army have arrived in Wuhan to relieve overwhelmed health workers and to staff the new 1,000-bed hospital.

It was built in just 10 days, its prefabricated wards equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and ventilation systems.

Irish Independent

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