Despite plans to implement a number of stringent sanitary precautions and scan the body temperature of attendees, the organisers of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona have announced that the event would be cancelled for the first time in its decades-long history, due to concerns over the recent novel coronavirus outbreak.
The MWC, held annually for the past 33 years, typically sees more than 100,000 people attend to see the latest innovations in the world of mobile and wireless technology, but a recent spike in the number of coronavirus cases compelled organisers to scrap the event, after a number of manufacturers announced their decision to withdraw.
MWC 2020, which was set to take place from 24 to 27 February, was expected to include the launch of numerous 5G mobile services, among other big announcements. However, after the Swedish manufacturer Ericsson announced on 7 February that it would not attend MWC this year, a number of other big names also decided against attending, including Facebook, Amazon, LG and Vodafone.
In a statement, MWC organisers, the GSM Association (GSMA), expressed their regret at having to cancel the event, saying that health concerns made it “impossible” to go ahead.
“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, 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,” said GMSA CEO, John Hoffman.
“The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision. The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting 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.”
Some mobile manufacturers have said that they would launch their products in alternative ways. Sony, for example, announced that it would still launch a new phone at the time the company’s press conference would have taken place at MWC, but would be doing it with a YouTube video instead.
The coronavirus – recently named COVID-19 to distinguish it from other forms of coronavirus – has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), and confirmed cases have surged to more than 60,000.