Foxconn makes masks for its iPhone workers amid coronavirus crisis
Coronavirus outbreak – latest updates Firm that supplies Apple hopes to manufacture 2m masks after electronics production was hit
Foxconn, the electronics company that supplies Apple, has begun manufacturing its own surgical masks, allowing Chinese workers to churn out iPhones uninterrupted as the coronavirus crisis continues.The Taiwanese company’s production lines have been shut down because of the disruption caused by the outbreak, slowing down the supply chain that feeds Apple’s global retail network.However, in a statement released via the Chinese social media platform WeChat, Foxconn said it hoped to get around the problem by switching some of its own production lines to make masks, for its own staff and to supply the soaring global demand for them.Show Quick guideWhat is the coronavirus and should we be worried? 📷 2017's top business stories: Whole Foods, hackers and a giant rabbit Read more It hopes to increase production to 2m masks by the end of the month.“In this war against the epidemic, every second counts,” the company said.“The earlier we take precautionary actions, the earlier we can prevent the virus, the earlier we can save lives, the sooner we can overcome this.”Foxconn, which has previously come under scrutiny over poor conditions endured by workers making iPhones, said it had already begun a test run of masks at its main manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, southern China.They will initially be produced for internal use by its hundreds of thousands of employees, the majority of whom work in factories in mainland China.After that, it will begin supplying masks to the wider public, from whom soaring demand has caused shortages as people trying to protect themselves from the virus.Sign up to the dailyBusinessToday email or follow GuardianBusinesson Twitter at @BusinessDesk Several other Chinese companies have said they will divert some of their production capacity to mask-making. They include the clothing firm Hongdou Group and the carmaker SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co Ltd, a joint-venture automaker formed by General Motors and two Chinese partners.The outbreak, which began in Wuhan, Hubei province, has claimed 636 lives in mainland China and infected more than 30,000 people.A number of multinational companies have said they expect significant disruption to their supply chains or their Chinese sales, while economists have predicted the virus will reduce output in China and nearby countries such as Thailand, which relies heavily on tourism from the country.