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Mobile World Congress cancelled amid coronavirus fears

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GSMA, organiser of the Mobile World Congress (MWC), has cancelled the event because of fears of the deadly coronavirus.

The conference, which was set to take place from 24 to 27 February in Barcelona, Spain, is the global telecom sector’s biggest annual convention, with companies spending millions to exhibit.

The cancellation comes after a number of technology companies pulled out of the event, citing fears of the deadly coronavirus, which has so far claimed the lives of over a thousand people globally.

Health officials in China's hard-hit central province of Hubei reported yesterday that 242 more people died from the coronavirus COVID-19 as of Wednesday – the highest in a single day and more than twice the previous record high – pushing the death toll across the country to 1 355.

Companies that pulled out of the event include Ericsson, Amazon, LG, Intel and Nokia.

The GSMA is an industry trade body that represents more than 1 200 companies across the mobile ecosystem, and MWC is the chance for thousands to gather for partnerships, deals and product launches.

In a statement issued yesterday, John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA, says since the first edition of MWC in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because of the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event.”

Hoffman says the host city parties respect and understand this decision.

The GSMA and the host city parties will continue to work in unison and support each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

“Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world,” Hoffman says.

MWC has a huge economic impact on Barcelona, the host city. The conference was expected to generate €492 million ($538 million) this year, according to GSMA, and it was to create more than 14 000 part-time jobs.

Earlier, GSMA had issued a statement regarding specific interventions that it said would have minimised any risks for exhibitors and visitors due to arrive in Barcelona from next week.

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