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Semiconductors

TSMC says no further COVID cases found but testing to continue

Taiwan chipmaker reported 3 cases at Hsinchu facilities on Monday

A Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. customized face mask: The chipmaker is working hard to keep its massive factories free of COVID-19.    © Reuters

TAIPEI -- Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. has found no further cases of COVID-19 among its employees after three workers tested positive on Monday, helping ease concerns over a possible cluster at the world's biggest chipmaker.

Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien said the chipmaker has conducted PCR tests on 286 of its employees at two chip facilities and a dormitory in the city. All of the results received as of Tuesday noon were negative.

"The tests in the company's chip facilities are still ongoing, but from what we have learned so far, the results are all negative. ... It's a good sign, and the company is dealing with this with at its highest-level alert," Lin said.

TSMC told Nikkei Asia that it is still conducting PCR tests for "several hundred" relevant employees and has not found any more confirmed cases. The initial round of tests is scheduled to be completed on Tuesday.

The chipmaker, which supplies almost all of the world's major tech and chip developers, said it will continue to test all exposed staff throughout the week, even those who tested negative. The testing has not affected chip production, TSMC said.

Concern over a potential cluster infection grew when the company, a key Apple supplier, said three employees tested positive on Monday. The Tsai Ing-wen administration immediately dispatched a top member of its COVID response team to help TSMC control the situation.

The facilities involved are older chip facilities, dubbed Fab 5 and Fab 2. They produce 8-inch and 6-inch wafers respectively -- mature chip-production technologies that are widely used in chips like sensors and automotive chips, two people with direct knowledge of the matter told Nikkei Asia.

TSMC's most cutting-edge chips are made about 250 km away in Tainan. However, its most important research and development hub is in Hsinchu.

Taiwan is one of the world's most important sources of advanced chips, and any COVID infections in its supply chain could worsen the global chip shortage that has already hit industries ranging from cars to consumer electronics.

The island's chip industry suffered its first serious chip industry COVID cluster in early June when a leading chip testing company, King Yuan, reported hundreds of cases at its factories and dormitories. King Yuan had to suspend operations for days. Full production resumed in early July.

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