Companies in local electronics supply chains, particularly those in the semiconductor industry, might feel relief because fewer King Yuan Electronics employees than expected tested positive for COVID-19 in the nation’s largest-scale PCR tests since the outbreak began.
A mere four out of 5,000 local employees at King Yuan tested positive, much fewer than expected by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), the center’s medical response division deputy head Victor Wang (王必勝) said on Sunday. Wang was dispatched earlier this month to oversee and coordinate the tests and disease-control measures in Miaoli County after King Yuan reported COVID-19 cluster infections among migrant workers.
The tests, completed in just two days, showed that collaboration between companies, hospitals and local governments effectively slowed down infections.
The results not only mean that King Yuan, a chip testing and packaging service provider, will be able to resume full production soon, but also build confidence that the nation’s electronics and semiconductor companies in the Hsinchu Science Park might be spared from production disruptions.
The temporary shutdown of King Yuan factories is unlikely to cripple the entire semiconductor supply chain, as the company only has a 3.7 percent market share, ranking as the world’s No. 8 chip tester and packager, according to market research firm TrendForce.
However, worries have emerged about possible widespread COVID-19 infections in the science park and subsequent production disruptions after cases at King Yuan rapidly climbed to more than 265 people, mostly migrant production line workers at its Miaoli factories.
Their concern is understandable, as some electronics companies share the same migrant labor agencies, and the virus could spread quickly in the crowded migrant worker dormitories. Local employees could be infected by close contact with the migrant workers as well.
Other confirmed cases were reported in another cluster infection among migrant workers at GreaTek Electronics, also in Miaoli, and Foxsemicon Integrated Technology, a semiconductor manufacturing and inspection equipment supplier.
Local governments have provided immediate aid and installed rapid screening test centers for factory workers and residents in the neighboring areas, as the Hsinchu Science Park is home to numerous technology firms including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.
Any large-scale production disruptions could result in a major hit to the nation’s economy. Companies based in the science park generated NT$1.24 trillion (US$44.88 billion) in production value last year, making the park a major pillar in Taiwan’s economy. Curbing COVID-19 infections in the science park can only help economically.
Companies with operations in Miaoli have launched self-funding rapid screening tests for their migrant workers, because they know that infections among migrant workers could spell trouble, as it did in Singapore. Chipmaker Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing and flat-panel display manufacturer Innolux are among companies that have had their Miaoli-based migrant workers tested for COVID-19.
Innolux extended the rapid screening tests to all its employees, including those based in Tainan and Kaohsiung, in a precautionary move to avoid production suspension, given that the industry is entering a high season and worker supply is scant. Innolux said on Saturday that all of its 5,000 migrant workers tested negative for the virus.
As more companies have arranged rapid screening tests for employees, there is a ray of hope that the nation’s electronics industry and the national economy might fare better through the pandemic.
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