Barcelona ready for MWC despite coronavirus fears

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With just over a week to go, Mobile World Congress (MWC) host city, Barcelona, says it is ready to go ahead despite more companies pulling out of the world's largest mobile conference due to coronavirus concerns.

This week, Amazon became the latest big tech company to withdraw from the global mobile trade show over the outbreak after LG, NVIDIA and Ericsson also pulled out during the past week.

The conference, set to kick off on 24 February, is the global telecom sector’s biggest annual convention, with companies spending millions to exhibit.

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

Despite fears of possible cancellation of the event, GSMA issued a statement regarding specific interventions that will minimise any risks for exhibitors and visitors due to arrive in Barcelona from next week.

The GSMA says no person from China's Hubei province, where the coronavirus outbreak began, can be admitted to the convention. Additionally, participants that have been in China will have to show they've been in a foreign country for 14 days prior to the MWC.

Latest media reports, however, say the GSMA will hold a board meeting on Friday to discuss possible cancellation of MWC.

Catalan health minister Alba Vergés has stated the City of Barcelona is fully prepared for the gathering to go ahead.

According to Vergés, the city is prepared to face and treat coronavirus, to give the most appropriate response.

“We are more prepared than ever,” she said.

Catalan secretary of public health Dr Joan Guix added: “We have always successfully performed prevention and control measures, thanks to our preparedness and response capacities. We will provide the maximum amount of information and ensure transparency.”

Dr Antoni Trilla, head of the preventive medicine and epidemiology department at Hospital Clínic Barcelona, told journalists that “our health system is prepared but we are not in an exceptional situation”.

The outbreak, rampaging across China, has already killed over 1 000 people and infected over 40 000, with more cases being reported in Britain and Spain.

The World Health Organisation has warned the coronavirus could be more dangerous than the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, with more people having been killed by the coronavirus and new cases expected to accelerate.

The outbreak, which originated in the central city of Wuhan in December, has seen several technology companies ‒ including Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Google and Apple ‒ impose travel restrictions to and from China, with some altogether suspending their office operations in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies have investments in Wuhan, with most technology giants having their manufacturing hubs in China, where a range of devices, including PC components and peripherals, and consumer devices are manufactured.

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