One of the world’s biggest annual events in the mobile communications industry has been hit by a host of big-name withdrawals due to the coronavirus outbreak – with Intel, Facebook, Nokia, Amazon and BT among those pulling out.
Mobile World Congress is due to take place in Barcelona from February 24-27, with organisers GMSA saying some 2,800 firms had signed up to exhibit.
However, a number of high-profile withdrawals – with more expected to follow – has led to speculation that the event could be postponed.
That would come as a blow to the city, as the event is said to generate up to 14,000 temporary jobs and boost the area’s income by circa £450m.
With coronavirus being declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation, and more than 40,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths now attributed to the virus, industrial supply chains are being hit and many firms are rethinking travel plans.
GMSA had already revealed a number of measures and restrictions designed to safeguard event delegates, ranging from a ban on visitors coming from parts of China where the virus originated.
Other steps included temperature screening of its anticipated 100,000 delegates, a requirement for attendees to self-certify their health, and a ‘no handshake’ policy to prevent the spread of germs.
Despite these reassurances, BT today became the latest firm to pull out, saying ‘the most responsible decision is to withdraw out participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers’.
Facebook had previously announced its withdrawal ‘out of an abundance of caution’, while Nokia described its own cancellation as ‘the prudent decision’.