Coronavirus fears leads tech companies to pull out of major MWC phone launches

Coronavirus has led many of the world’s biggest tech companies to pull out of MWC, one of the highlights of the industry’s year.

The Mobile World Congress event usually plays host to the unveiling of major firm’s products for the year. Most of the biggest technology companies show off their new phones, and set the tone for the rest of the year.

This year, however, a flurry of companies have pulled out citing safety concerns around the spread of coronavirus. The companies all say it would not be possible for them to take part safely in the event, given the vast numbers of people arriving from around the world.

Amazon, LG, Ericsson, Sony and Nvidia have withdrawn from participating in the convention. Others such as TCL have restricted their presence, offering only limited meetings.

Those who are still attending the event will have to go through safety checks such as quarantines and temperature checks.

As part of a range of new health measures around the event in response to the outbreak, MWC organisers GSMA has banned visitors from China’s Hubei province – where the virus is believed to have originated.

MWC attendees who have recently been to China will also be asked to confirm they have been outside the country for 14 days prior to the convention.

Organisers have also confirmed that temperature screening will be in place during the trade show and it is encouraging those attending to adopt a “no-handshake” policy.

The GSMA has maintained that the event will go ahead as planned.

According to GSMA figures, as many as 6,000 people from China would be expected to attend, as part of over 100,000 visitors.

There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China, while the death toll in China now stands at 908.

“The GSMA knows that the coronavirus has created disruption, in particular for exhibitors and attendees from around the world, including the 5-6,000 (5-6%) who have historically attended from China,” the organisers said in a statement.

“Our sympathy goes to all those affected. We are grateful for the preventative measures our Chinese exhibitors have put in place, notably ZTE and Huawei.

“Today, the GSMA is moving ahead as planned and will host MWC Barcelona 24-27 February 2020. 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.”

MWC is one of the biggest events in the world of technology. It regularly serves as the time of the year where companies unveil their biggest news in the world of phones, with last year seeing the launch of flagship folding handsets from companies like Samsung.

Additional reporting by agencies

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