With only 14 days left till it’s due to start, the prognosis for the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 in Barcelona is not good, with growing numbers of major firms pulling out citing Coronavirus safety concerns.
Amazon, Sony, Ericsson, LG and Nvidia are among those to have now ditched the conference. ZTE has stated that it will attend, but will not operate as normal at the event and will not host a press conference.
This all comes as the Coronavirus spreads outside China and the death toll surpasses the SARS epidemic, after it hit 811 on Sunday.
Sony stated: “As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC.”
Last week Nvidia stated its intention to not send its employees to the event, citing the public health risk and that: “Ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern.”
Amazon and its AWS had planned to not only attend MWC, but were expected to run a full day of events on the opening day.
However, all of these events are now cancelled as Amazon says it will completely withdraw from exhibiting and participating.
What Does MWC Say?
Yesterday organisers GSMA stated their intention to “move ahead as planned’ with the event on the 24-27 of February.
Noting that: “While the GSMA confirm some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps, we remain more than 2,800 exhibitors strong.”
In order to tackle the infection and ensure attendees safety GSMA have instituted a number of measures such as:
All travellers from the Hubei province will not be permitted access to the event
All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
Temperature screening will be implemented Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.
These precautions are listed alongside a host of on-site measures such as the doubling of the medical support staff and a no-handshake policy.
The no-handshake policy being advised by MWC actually highlights the major issue at events like this, the coming together of experts and marketers from across the world to attend a large scale meet and greet.
MWC is without question the world’s largest technology exhibition for the mobile industry. Last year more than 109,000 attendees ascended on Barcelona from over 198 countries and territories.
Absent sustained slowdown of the global epidemic, major conference organisers look set to have a challenging time in coming months.