China asks retired military and government staff to boost production at COVID-hit iPhone factory

The Chinese government has called on retired military and government workers to help boost production at the world's largest iPhone factory amid COVID staff shortages.

An open letter posted on WeChat asks veterans and ex-civil servants to "answer the government's call" and "take part in the resumption of production" at the Foxconn facility in Zhengzhou - where 70% of iPhones are made.

The message came from the local Veteran Affairs Bureau of the Liberation Army in Henan province and offers bonuses of $112 (£95) for signing up and a further $423 (£359) after the first 30 days.

Earlier this month, Apple reduced the number of new iPhone 14s it expected to ship as a result of production problems in Zhengzhou. Capacity at the factory could be down by as much as 30% this month, Reuters news agency reported.

At the beginning of November, officials imposed a lockdown of the whole Zhengzhou Airport Economy Zone, which is home to the Foxconn factory.

Workers were filmed climbing over fences and walking miles along an empty road seemingly trying to escape restrictions after a COVID outbreak​​​​​​.

The lockdown, which ended on 9 November, required any staff who tested positive to be sent to a quarantine facility within the plant.

It did not appear to stop cases spreading, however, with infections identified in October and November, and many staff members absent.

Although restrictions have officially ended at the business park, officials have been accused of "performative lockdown lifting" after reports people's freedoms were still restricted inside.

Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, has not released an official number of COVID cases at the plant.

Claims of 100,000 new staff hired

Chinese media reported on Thursday that 100,000 new workers had been hired following a recruitment drive.

But the call for retirees to take up temporary contracts suggests staff numbers are still too low.

Normally the plant has 200,000 workers, who produce 500,000 iPhones a day.

China is coming under increasing pressure to ease its zero-COVID policy, with restrictions across the country affecting the domestic economy and global trade.