MWC 2020 Cancelled As Coronavirus Crisis Deepens

GSMA, the organisers of the 2020 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, have confirmed that they have cancelled this year’s conference.

The GSMA took the decision amid a sharp rise in the death toll from the Coronavirus outbreak in China.

On late Wednesday night, things took a turn for the worse, after Chinese health officials in the Hubei province reported 242 new deaths in a single day, and 14,840 new cases of the flu-like virus, which has been officially called COVID-19.

Coronavirus outbreak

That brings the worldwide death toll to at least 1,357 and the number of confirmed cases to more than 60,000.

The huge rise in cases comes as Chinese officials broadened their definition of confirmed cases.

To put that into context, the SARS outbreak back in 2002 and 2003 only infected 8,000 people and killed 774 over a period of several months.

Coronavirus has killed many more people, and infected tens of thousands more, in a much shorter period of time.

This outbreak led to a number of big name tech firms including Facebook and Intel to announce they are pulling out of this years MWC. Earlier this week Sony and Amazon said they were withdrawing from the show.

Last week South Korea’s LG Electronics, Sweden’s telecoms equipment maker Ericsson, and US chip company NVIDIA all announced they were withdrawing the MWC conference, which runs between 24 and 27 February.

Despite those withdrawals, it looked like the show would continue.

At the start of the week, the GSMA stated that the show will go ahead, although it admitted other companies were considering whether to attend.

The GSMA said that it had put into place additional measures to “reassure attendees and exhibitors that their health and safety are our paramount concern”.

These measures reportedly include a ban on all travellers from China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, while people who have been in China must provide proof they have been outside the country for 14 days.

The GSMA also reportedly suggested that MWC participants should not shake hands with each other at the show, and microphones used by speakers would be disinfected and changed.

But on then Wednesday it was reported that GSMA were going to be meeting on Friday to discuss whether the event should go ahead in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Conference cancelled

But with the dramatic rise in the death toll, the GSMA decided to pull the plug on the show immediately.

“Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem,” said the GSMA in a statement.

“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,” it said.

“The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision,” it added. “Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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