World's biggest mobile technology fair canceled over coronavirus fears

World's biggest mobile technology fair canceled over coronavirus fears
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The organizers of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile technology exposition, have canceled the event after dozens of tech and wireless firms pulled out over fears around the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, head of the GSMA organizing body, said in a statement Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

After an initial wave of withdrawals including Ericsson, Sony, Amazon, Intel and LG, several more dropped out Wednesday, including Nokia, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Britain’s BT, citing health and safety concerns.

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Nokia said Wednesday it would withdraw following a “full assessment of the risks related to a fast-moving situation,” and that “the health and well-being of employees was a primary focus.”

Ericsson's and Nokia’s withdrawals left China’s Huawei as the only remaining major network gear manufacturer planning to attend, and the Chinese company had planned to send a delegation of European staff to the show, with its chairman conducting a video briefing because he would not have enough time to both travel to Spain and undergo a two-week self-quarantine.

The event in Barcelona, scheduled for Feb. 24-27, was initially projected to draw more than 100,000 visitors, including up to 6,000 from China. Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy at Creative Strategies, said cancellation was the best option amid uncertainty about how the virus spreads.

Catalan's regional health chief, Alba Vergés, said there remained a “very low risk of the coronavirus” in the Catalonia region and that there have been four suspected cases, all of which have tested negative.

“There is no public health reason to cancel any event in Catalonia or Barcelona, including the Mobile World Congress,” Vergés said, according to the AP. “If the companies make their own decision, we have to respect that, but we are here to explain this from a public health perspective.”