Coronavirus: Taiwan chip maker TSMC confirms second coronavirus infection but says operations not affected

·3-min read

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker, confirmed on Wednesday its second case of coronavirus infection, but added that its operations would not be affected.

In a statement, TSMC said the employee, who lives in New Taipei City but has not been to any of the company’s offices for some time, displayed mild symptoms and has been in home quarantine. Ten people confirmed to have been in close contact with the employee are also now in home quarantine, according to the statement, which did not provide details of the infected employee’s work location.

TSMC’s corporate headquarters are in the Hsinchu Science Park, about 90 kilometres southwest of Taipei, where it also operates most of its advanced wafer fabrication plants.

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The statement added that the company will monitor the health of employees on a daily basis and provide necessary help.

The confirmation of the new case comes days after a first employee was tested positive for the pathogen as the self-ruled Taiwan grapples with a surge of infections, putting a strain on the health care system and raising questions about the ability of the island’s chip makers to continue supplying semiconductors during a worsening global shortage.

The latest update from Taiwan authorities, issued on Wednesday, said the island saw 302 new local cases, with 152 in New Taipei City and 87 in Taipei.

The outbreak in Taiwan comes amid an ongoing global semiconductor shortage, which has caused widespread disruption at global car makers but has since spilled over to impact other electronics products, with many analysts saying the crunch could last into 2022.

Taiwan has an outsize role in the world’s chipmaking sector, accounting for 63 per cent of total global foundry revenue last year, according to Taipei-based research firm TrendForce. TSMC itself accounted for more than 85 per cent of the foundry revenue generated by Taiwan.

TSMC produced 24 per cent of the world’s semiconductors by value, excluding memory chips, in 2020, up from a 21 per cent share in 2019, according to the company’s 2020 annual report.

Taiwan-based analysts, however, have downplayed the potential of Covid-19 to disrupt production at the global chip manufacturing centre.

TrendForce said an investigation by its team of analysts showed that the current wave of the epidemic in Taiwan has not had a material impact on wafer production so far and that “everything is still operating normally,” according to a written statement from the data research firm.

Arisa Liu, a senior research fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, said TSMC’s operations are unlikely to be disrupted in the short term even if some employees test positive for Covid-19 because the company has a contingency plan to divide work shifts at fabs to reduce the number of workers on duty at any one time.

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