Coronavirus: Chip Makers Ask To Be Classified As Essential Businesses

ASML's TWINSCAN NXE:3400B semiconductor lithography tool. ASML chip

Group representing major US chip makers ask US federal authorities to be classified as essential businesses, so factories can remain open

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), which represents major chip makers is asking for permission from US authorities to keep their factories running.

Members of SIA include AMD, Intel, Broadcom, IBM, and Qualcomm, and they believe that the semiconductor industry must stay up and running during the Coronavirus pandemic.

At a time when many factories have closed down, and tech firms instructed their workforce to work from home if possible, SIA is warning that chip companies are an essential businesses that should continue operations.


Essential business

SIA argues that as the world increasingly relies on IT during the pandemic, it needs to keep making the chips that are “at the heart of many breakthrough technologies being used to combat this global health crisis.”

This is the point made by SIA President and CEO John Neuffer in a blog post.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak continues, government officials in the US and around the world are imposing business closures, shelter-in-place orders, and other restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus,” said Neuffer. “As officials consider these important public health measures, it is critical that essential businesses and infrastructure, including the semiconductor industry, be allowed to continue operations.”

Neuffer pointed out that last week the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued an advisory to state and local governments about designating essential infrastructure workers during Covid-19 response efforts.

This advisory, includes SIA’s recommendation, that the semiconductor industry be designated an essential sector that should maintain operations even when state and local governments impose various restrictions.

Neuffer said that SIA is “working with DHS to further refine its guidance to make clear to state and local governments the critical role our industry plays in keeping America’s infrastructure functioning and our economy moving.”

“Semiconductors underpin vital sectors of the economy, including health care and medical devices, telecommunications, energy, finance, transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing,” Neuffer wrote.

“They are the key components of the technologies that control critical infrastructure, such as water systems, the energy grid, and communication networks,” he said. “They also underpin the IT systems that enable remote work and access to essential services across every domain, including medicine, finance, education, government, food distribution, and more.”

Supply chain

He warned that since the semiconductor supply chain is highly globalized, semiconductor shortages created by operating restrictions in one region cannot be readily made up by production in other regions.

For that reason, SIA called on all governments around the world at all levels to prioritise continued operations for domestic semiconductor companies and their suppliers.

“We look forward to continuing to work with government leaders to defeat Covid-19 and to ensure the semiconductor industry remains a valuable contributor in ensuring continuity of critical infrastructure and operations during this global health crisis,” Neuffer concluded.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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