Vivo, Intel become the latest companies to back out from MWC 2020 due to coronavirus fear

GSMA said that no-one from China's Hubei province would be allowed to attend the Mobile World Congress.

Japanese wireless carrier NTT Docomo and Sony Corp pulled out of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Monday because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As per a new update by VentureBeat, Intel will also not attend MWC. As per the report, an Intel spokesperson said, "The safety and wellbeing of all our employees and partners is our top priority, and we have withdrawn from this year’s Mobile World Congress out of an abundance of caution. We are grateful to the GSMA for their understanding and look forward to attending and supporting future Mobile World Congress events,”.

In addition, Vivo has also announced that it's backing out of MWC 2020. As per a report by Android Authority, Vivo gave a statement via email that read: "Vivo has been closely monitoring the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP) outbreak and continuously evaluating planned activities. The health and safety of our employees and the public are our top priority. Based on the present situation, we have decided to withdraw from our debut at MWC 2020 and other related events later this month in Barcelona, Spain.”

Amazon, South Korea's LG Electronics, Swedish equipment maker Ericsson and US chipmaker Nvidia have already withdrawn from MWC, which had more than 100,000 visitors and upwards of 2,400 exhibitors in 2019.

MWC, due to take place on 24-27 February is the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, with companies spending millions on stands and hospitality to fill their order books.

(Also read: Coronavirus outbreak FAQ: Face masks, safe meat, tips to stay safe from the deadly airborne infection)

Image: Reuters

Sony and NTT said in statements they had withdrawn after taking into consideration the safety of customers, partners and staff. Image: Reuters

Barcelona's economy got a boost of around 470 million euros ($515 million) last year from the event, its organiser the GSMA estimated. The GSMA had no immediate comment.

Gremi d'Hotels de Barcelona, the city's main hotels association, said coronavirus concerns had resulted in cancellations but it was too early to quantify the impact on overall bookings.

And the region's digital policy councillor, Jordi Puignero, told local radio station RAC1 the Catalan regional government was "taking measures so that everything proceeds as normal".

"There is no reason to not attend," he added.

Sources close to exhibitors said that if participants cancel, they would have to bear the cost. The GSMA, an industry association representing more than 750 operators and 400 companies, would only be liable if it calls off the event.

Sony and NTT said in statements they had withdrawn after taking into consideration the safety of customers, partners and staff. Sony said its launch event would be held via video.

NTT did not immediately confirm whether its chief executive, Kazuhiro Yoshizawa, would continue as a panel speaker.

US-Israeli software provider Amdocs also pulled out of the event on Monday.

"While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the (organiser) GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona,” Amdocs' CEO Shuky Sheffer said in a statement.

Chinese electronics company TCL said it was cancelling a press event but would still attend MWC and showcase new devices, while Norway's Telenor said it was planning to cut the number of staff attending as well as reducing its programme.

No hand shakes

GSMA said on Sunday that no-one from China's Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began, would be allowed to attend, while visitors from China must prove they have been outside the country for at least two weeks prior to the event.

These measures add to earlier actions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, including changing microphones between speakers and advising all attendees not to shake hands.

The death toll from coronavirus in mainland China has risen above 900, with more than 40,000 people infected. More than two dozen countries are grappling with the virus, which has infected more than 330 people outside China.

In 2019, some 6 percent of Mobile World Congress attendees were from China, GSMA's post-congress report showed. Most were from Europe, around 64 percent, as were about 45 percent of the exhibitors.

China's Huawei and ZTE have said they will attend, ordering China-based staff to self-isolate ahead of MWC and drafting in European staff to cover for those not able to attend from China.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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