The World’s Relentless Demand for Chips Turns Deadly in Malaysia

While Covid-19 killed millions of people around the globe, deaths at STMicro’s facility in the Malaysian district of Muar were substantially higher than averages in the rest of the country and the world. One in 1,100 people in Malaysia died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, while it was at least one in 210 at the plant, according to Bloomberg News reporting. STMicro declined to comment on the specific number of workers who died at the Muar location. “Since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, ST’s actions and strategy have been driven first and utmost by the will to maximize the prevention of infection and supporting our employees and their families,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “To do so, the company deployed a broad range of measures in close collaboration with the relevant public health authorities in every country it operates, and also relied on expert third-party guidance.” Before this year, no one worried too much about the global supply chain, beyond specialists in the field. The role of developing nations like Malaysia or the Philippines warranted little attention. But the coronavirus outbreak has been a wake-up call for chief executives, prime ministers and consumers around the world, as shortages disrupted production of everything from iPhones and F-150 pickups to Nike sneakers. The tragedy in Muar shows the little-understood human cost of keeping supply chains running in a pandemic. While politicians in Washington and Paris urge suppliers to step up production of semiconductors and government officials in countries like Malaysia give special exemptions to powerful corporations, employees like Hani put their lives at risk. Read more.