BEIJING: Hon Hai Precision Industry Co told employees at its Shenzhen facility not to return to work when the extended Lunar New Year break ends Feb 10, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

The moratorium represents an extreme effort by Apple Inc’s most important partner to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that’s paralysed much of China’s manufacturing.

Foxconn’s main iPhone-making base is farther north in Zhengzhou but coastal Shenzhen serves as its Chinese headquarters and the majority of the tens of thousands employed there are out-of-towners. The company also assembles a small portion of iPhones there.

“To safeguard everyone’s health and safety and comply with government virus prevention measures, we urge you not to return to Shenzhen,” Foxconn wrote in a text message sent to employees.

“We’ll update you on the situation in the city. The company will protect everyone’s work-related rights and interests in the duration. As for the happy reunion date in Shenzhen, please wait for further notice.”

Apple and Foxconn were among the first corporations to try and quantify the epidemic’s impact.

Hon Hai slashed its 2020 outlook this week, anticipating disruptions to Apple’s carefully calibrated production chain as well as weaker consumer demand and overall economic growth.

As China’s largest private employer and a key partner to many of the world’s most recognisable consumer brands, Foxconn has become a high-profile symbol of how the outbreak could disrupt Chinese manufacturing and hence the world’s supply of made-in-China electronics.

It’s unclear whether the Shenzhen policy extends to all employees or to Foxconn’s other facilities.

Hon Hai, which makes the vast majority of the world’s iPhones from the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou in Henan province, officially resumes production on Feb 10.

But the company has said in a statement that workers returning to Zhengzhou from outside the province will be sequestered for 14 days, Bloomberg News has reported.

“As a matter of policy and for reasons of commercial sensitivity, we do not comment on our specific production facilities,” Foxconn said in a statement in response to Bloomberg’s queries.

“We have been closely monitoring the current public health challenge linked to the coronavirus and we are applying all recommended health and hygiene practices to all aspects of our operations in the affected markets.”