Mobile World Congress cancelled over coronavirus fears

Ruben Fields
March 25, 2020

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia Oyj, Vodafone Group PLC, Deutsche Telekom AG and Britain's BT PLC.

Organizers of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) have announced the cancellation of the world's largest mobile exhibition over the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Intel joined American behemoth Amazon, US tech firm Nvidia, Sweden's Ericsson, and South Korea's LG in withdrawing their participation.

The annual conference that was set to take place in Barcelona at the end of February - which sees more than 100,000 people industry personnel from around the globe - has now been axed with regard to the keeping the host city safe. All the companies cited concerns for the safety of both staff and visitors.

Dr Mike Ryan, the World Health Organisation's emergencies chief, said before the cancellation that the show could have gone on.

Tottenham captain Kane recovering well from hamstring injury
The England captain has been out since his hamstring broke against Southampton on New Year's Day and underwent surgery in January.

He stated that while no mass gathering is ever risk-free - with the potential for food poisoning, injuries or building collapse - most events "can continue if the proper measures can be applied". Major companies and many attendees will be reviewing the importance of MWC to their business and the GSMA must work hard to have a clear path forward. The CCOO union's regional leader, Javier Pacheco, denounced "the alarmist attitude of the technological companies that from their position of global supremacy don't care about the local impact".

Hoffman also drew attention to smaller companies involved, who have "invested a disproportionate amount of their budgets and time" in the event, and who also stand to lose much.

Although most of the confirmed infections - 44,687 at the time of writing - are in mainland China, 28 countries now have reported cases, and with more than 100,000 worldwide attendees expected to descend on MWC this year, including over 6000 from China, many tech companies felt it would irresponsible to send their staff to the event.

Spanish Vice President Carmen Calvo said there was "no public health reason" to call off the show. She said Spain had a good health response system and was following all of the recommendations from the WHO.

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