A new coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan has raised concerns over TSMC's ability to maintain production levels, DigiTimes reported today, especially as the chances of city-wide lockdowns being imposed rise alongside the number of new cases.
Taiwan handled COVID-19 better than most—The Guardian said it reported 1,000 cases and 12 deaths throughout 2020. For comparison, there were more than 2 million cases and 52,000 deaths in New York alone, per The New York Times.
Yet the number of local cases in Taiwan is rising: The Guardian reported that there were 29 on Friday, 180 on Saturday, 206 yesterday, and 333 today, which means "about 91% of Taiwan’s total local caseload has come in the past four days."
DigiTimes reported that this resurgence had led some to worry that "potential coronavirus-induced lockdowns in Taipei and other cities may pose a threat to the local chipmaking industry supply chain, according to industry sources."
TSMC is said to have "stepped up its already stringent precautionary measures against the coronavirus," according to the report, even though it has only had one infected employee, and that was in the early days of the pandemic.
But it's critical for TSMC to maintain production levels right now. The company has made significant commitments to develop new technologies and increase production, but it still expects chip shortages to last until 2023 despite those efforts.
Many products that rely on TSMC-manufactured chips are already in short supply. Any disruptions related to this resurgence of COVID-19 would make it that much harder to find the best graphics cards, the latest Apple devices, and other products.
All of this means TSMC and other Taiwanese foundries are going to face enormous pressure to maintain production levels while they contend with the possibility of new coronavirus-related restrictions, a record drought, and other obstacles besides.