(Bloomberg) -- China’s latest Covid lockdown has virtually paralyzed a city of 6 million that houses much of the country’s electronic information, forcing Apple Inc.’s data center operator to take emergency measures to shut out the pandemic.
Apple’s partner in Guiyang, which operates the server center that houses all online data generated and stored by hundreds of millions of Chinese iPhone users, described what amounted to a “closed loop” system under which employees are barred from leaving the premises. Many haven’t seen their families for a week, Guizhou Cloud Big Data, Apple’s government-backed partner, said in a WeChat notice.
The firm, which also manages data for other clients, didn’t say whether the iPhone maker’s servers had been affected or when the lockdown will lift. Guiyang, capital of the mountainous landlocked province of Guizhou, has in past years used incentives and policy support to attract massive server investments from the likes of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and WeChat-operator Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Since its unveiling in 2017, Apple’s Chinese data center has become the heart of its nationwide operation, storing and handling an array of information from photos and videos to email. Apple was forced to hand control to a state firm under Chinese law, which critics have said jeopardizes user privacy and security.
Covid Restrictions and the Data Center Operations Fallout in China
An Apple spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Cloud Big Data didn’t respond to an emailed inquiry sent to its public online address.
“Faced with a dire situation, we need courageous people on the front lines,” the state-backed firm said in its post.
China sealed off parts of Guiyang this week after an increase in virus cases triggered a stringent response in line with the country’s Covid Zero strategy. Lockdowns were imposed in almost all communities in six of Guiyang’s 10 districts.
Among the affected neighborhoods was Huaguoyuan, China’s biggest residential compound by area with 400,000 residents in 300 buildings.
Residents in affected areas were only allowed to leave their homes for Covid tests, and all cab services were suspended, effectively freezing activity across the city. Guiyang officials have apologized for their inexperience in coordinating deliveries, as logistics disruptions all but choked off food supplies.