Mobile World Congress: Coronavirus shuts down world’s biggest phone show

Pictured: Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2012

Bosses of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) have stated the outbreak has made hosting the show “impossible”.

In a statement, organisers, the GSM Association (GSMA), said: “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country, 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.”

It continued to express its sympathies for those affected around the world.

The high-profile event attracts over 100,000 visitors from 200 countries, with approximately 6,000 travelling from China where the virus originated. Thousands of companies (including BT, LG, and Nokia) exhibit to showcase their latest innovations.

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Amazon, Sony, LG Electronics, Ericsson and Facebook were among the first to pull out from exhibiting at the show, citing coronavirus concerns. The chief executive of Orange, Stephane Richard, also pulled the company from exhibiting despite being a chair of the GSMA.

A report from tech news site, WIRED, suggests the GSMA had been calling on the Spanish government to declare a health emergency, meaning it could cancel the show while claiming back insurance.

Following a meeting yesterday (12th February), the GSMA stated it was “monitoring” the epidemic but was forced to cancel after dozens of companies cancelled their attendance.

The show has been running since 2006 and was due to take place this year in Barcelona from 24th-27th February. It is planned to return to Barcelona in 2021 on 22nd-25th February.

The coronavirus has already infected more than 42,000 people, claiming over 1,100 lives.