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MWC cancelled amid coronavirus fears

13th February 2020
Alex Lynn

It has been announced that following a spike in coronavirus cases and multiple exhibitors pulling out of the event, Mobile World Congress (MWC) has been cancelled. The show was due to be held between 24th and 27th February in Barcelona, expecting around 100,000 attendees to the event from 200 countries, with approximately 6,000 of that number expected from China. 

This is the first time the annual event has been cancelled since its launch in 2006. In the official statement from The GSMA explained: “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”

Wednesday brought with it the worst day of the outbreak so far in terms of both number of diagnoses and deaths, with almost 15,000 new cases of the virus, and 242 deaths. This has increased the total number of cases globally to 60,000, with a death toll of over 1,300. According to the latest report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus has confirmed cases in 28 countries including China, UK, USA, Japan, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Germany, Canada and Spain. 

Among the companies that pulled out of MWC prior to it being cancelled were: Amazon, Facebook, Sony, Intel, Orange, LG Electronics, Ericsson, Vodafone, BT, McAfee, Nokia and Nvidia. 

This year at MWC, some companies, including Ericsson and Nokia, were expected to showcase 5G wireless technology solutions, as the new tech prepares to be rolled out in Europe. 

MWC creates thousands of jobs in Barcelona to host the event, as well as generating around £400m in revenue for the city. The cancellation of the event is also a significant blow to exhibiting companies, many of which spend a significant amount of their budget to exhibit at the event and launch new products. 

Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight, said: “The impact on small companies who have invested a disproportionate amount of their budgets and time on this event should not be underestimated. MWC is an anchor event for many and now they face the challenge of having to figure out what the best way to salvage something from this difficult situation.

"The GSMA now needs to be careful that there is not a knock off effect from this year's cancellation. 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.”

Another large industry event, embedded world, is scheduled for the same week as MWC in Nuremberg, Germany. STMicroelectronics and Microchip have pulled out of the event due to coronavirus concerns, but currently the exhibition still plans to go ahead. 

What do we know about the virus?

The disease has been dubbed COVID-19. The symptoms range from mild to severe and include a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, with some reports stating that it presents similarly to pneumonia. According to the CDC, the incubation period of the coronavirus can be anywhere between two and 14 days after exposure.

There are a lot of unknowns around the new COVID-19 form of coronavirus (SARS and MERS were also forms of coronavirus), but it is currently believed that it is spread between people via proximity, as with most other respiratory viruses. 

Following the outbreak, China has faced accusations of suppressing the true extent of the virus, from Chinese citizens and other countries. As the death toll climbed, a number of senior health officials were removed from their jobs, including most recently the Communist Party Secretary, Jiang Chaoliang, and the party chief in Wuhan.

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