Other event organizers continue to monitor global situation with COVID-19
This year’s Mobile World Congress, the massive mobile and networking tech show hosted every year in Barcelona, has been canceled amid fears about the coronavirus and the withdrawal of more than a dozen major tech companies.
The Lowdown: The shutdown of MWC, which draws more than 100,000 attendees every year, could portend similar decisions for other events as the tech show season ramps up.
The Details: For more than a week now, MWC organizer GSMA has seen the defection of such companies as Intel, Nvidia, Amazon, Cisco, Sony, LG Electronics, and AT&T that pointed to the need to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers in the wake of the spreading outbreak of the virus. The weight of such withdrawals and the ongoing concern about the virus convinced organizers that they couldn’t go on with the event, which was slated to run Feb. 14-27.
In addition, airlines including British Airways, Delta, United, and American have suspended flights to China and Hong Kong, which further complicated travel to and from the event.
In a statement, GSMA CEO John Hoffman said officials in Barcelona understood the decision and that the organization and host parties in Spain will be working on MWC 2021. The conference has been hosted since 2006 in Barcelona, which stands to lose a lot of revenue that’s generated every year by the show.
The Impact: Organizers of other tech shows already are talking about monitoring the situation with the coronavirus, whose resulting flu-like illness is now officially known as COVID-19. The RSA Conference has a site that it updates regularly about the status of the show, and as of Tuesday, the event will still go on as scheduled in San Francisco Feb. 24-28. The organizers have announced a number of safety measures being taken, from adding hand sanitizer stations at the Moscone Center and increasing the number of medical personnel on site to communicating with city hotels about their cleaning protocols.
Background: The COVID-19 outbreak started in January in the Wuhan province in China and has spread to more than two-dozen other countries, including the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week a 14th case. More than 60,000 cases have been widely reported, with more than 1,300 deaths attributed to the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) is pegging the numbers at 45,171 cases and 1,115 deaths worldwide.
The Buzz: “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled 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,” Hoffman said in his statement. “Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China and all around the world.”
“Approximately 83 percent of our current registered attendees are from the United States, as are 82 percent of our exhibiting organizations,” RSA organizers said in a statement. “The travel restrictions implemented by the U.S. government on Jan. 31, 2020, remain in effect, and according to the CDC’s latest situation summary, the health risk from coronavirus for the general American public is considered low at this time. RSA Conference will continue to follow the guidance of the CDC and the WHO and is in close communication with the City of San Francisco to monitor all new developments pertaining to the coronavirus.”