SK Hynix, the world’s second largest memory chipmaker, which counts Apple as one of its biggest clients, sent 800 workers home Thursday amidst coronavirus fears.
The 800 workers quarantined themselves as a precautionary measure after a single trainee had close contact with a coronavirus patient. While most of the coronavirus virus-related supply chain disruption centers on China, this incident took place in South Korea, where a small outbreak recently took place in the city of Daegu.
SK Hynix produces memory chips for Apple and Huawei. A 2019 article for the Korea Herald notes that Apple supports 125,000 local manufacturing jobs in South Korea through companies like SK Hynix.
The chipmaker said that it tested two trainees for coronavirus. The tests came back negative, although they will undergo a second test. SK Hynix says that production is not being disrupted by sending the 800 workers home. They had not yet started working on production lines.
The number is also just a small fraction of the 18,000 people working at this particular plant.
Coronavirus disrupts chipmaker (but not too badly)
Nonetheless, it’s another reminder of how disruptive coronavirus continues to be. At present, the novel coronavirus — named COVID-19 — has infected around 76,000 people worldwide. At least 2,244 people have died as a result of the virus. All but 11 of these deaths have occurred in mainland China.
Chinese manufacturers such as Foxconn are gradually getting facilities back up and running — including reopening one iPhone-critical site. They are also taking preventative measures such as setting up a production line making surgical masks, installing infrared scanners, and have developed a smartphone app which sends alerts to employees if they are too close to infection hotspots. However, it seems that the spread of coronavirus is also impacting other manufacturers overseas.
Apple recently pulled its previous forecast for fiscal second quarter earnings as a result of the spread of coronavirus. This is only the second time it has done this in 15 years.