Virus fears force halt of tech show


Fri, Feb 14, 2020 - Page 10

Organizers of the world’s biggest mobile technology fair are pulling the plug over worries about the COVID-19 outbreak from China.

The annual Mobile World Congress is to no longer be held as planned in Barcelona, Spain, from Feb. 24 to 27.

“Global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” GSMA chief executive John Hoffman said in a statement on Wednesday.

The decision comes after dozens of tech companies and wireless carriers dropped out, with the latest cancelations by Nokia Oyj, Vodafone Group PLC, Deutsche Telekom AG and Britain’s BT PLC.

Organizers and government officials had sought to hold out against growing pressure to cancel the annual tech extravaganza, which had been expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors from about 200 countries, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China.

The show normally represents a huge source of revenue for hotels, restaurants and taxi companies. Authorities have estimated the show was to generate 473 million euros (US$513 million) and more than 14,000 part-time jobs for the local economy.

Spanish Vice President Carmen Calvo said there was “no public health reason” to call off the show. She said Spain had a good health response system and was following all of the recommendations from the WHO.

Spanish labor unions said that the show was called off due to the panic of the major technological companies. The CCOO union’s regional leader, Javier Pacheco, denounced “the alarmist attitude of the technological companies that from their position of global supremacy don’t care about the local impact.”

However, Creative Strategies president Tim Bajarin said the cancelation was prudent with all the unknowns surrounding how the virus is spread and as many companies had already pulled out.