MWC 2020 Cancelled Over Coronavirus Outbreak

Yolanda Curtis
March 26, 2020

Workers install a banner with hygiene recommendations outside the Fira Gran Via, venue for the annual MWC Barcelona trade show in Spain on February 12.

The GSM Association (GSMA), the company that organizes the show, has chose to cancel the whole event after a variety of companies including Sony, LG and HMD Global, pulled out of the show.

The GSMA had announced in a press release on Sunday that MWC would go on as planned, even if some of the biggest companies had pulled out, saying there were still 2,800 other exhibitors attending the event.

Several sources said the GSMA's board, consisting of 25 industry bosses, was holding a "virtual" meeting to consider its options.

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.

The GSMA, the wireless trade body that organizes the fair, had said it was monitoring the virus situation closely, including meeting regularly with global and Spanish health experts and its partners to ensure the well-being of attendees. Xiaomi had said it was taking extra precautionary steps.

Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau said on Wednesday that she wanted to send a "message of calm", insisting the city was ready to host the event.

However, organisers said it had become "impossible" to hold it this year due to "global concern" around the outbreak of the virus - now formally known as Covid-19.

"There is no evidence at present to suggest that there is community spread outside China, so World Health Organization is not now requesting that large gatherings are cancelled", World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told Reuters in Geneva.

"To bring people together and connect them: That is what Telekom stands for".

A spokesperson for Facebook said, "Out of an abundance of caution, Facebook employees won't be attending this year's Mobile World Congress due to the evolving public health risks related to coronavirus". The departures of Nokia and Ericsson had left China's Huawei, a major sponsor of the fair, as the only remaining major network gear maker still planning to attend. It's banning all guests from China's Hubei province, where the outbreak started, and will require that visitors who have been to China prove that they haven't been there for the last 14 days.

Tracking the meetings and movements across the Fira trade grounds and the city of Barcelona of anyone who later tests positive would be a hard task.

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