Barcelona's Mobile World Congress Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Fears

Published February 13th, 2020 - 08:05 GMT
Barcelona's Mobile World Congress Cancelled Due to Coronavirus Fears
Barcelona, Spain. February 2018: Mobile world Congress or MWC 2018 hashtag, located at the crossroads of Passeig de Gracia and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. (Shutterstock)
Organizers are calling the show 'impossible' amid widespread fears

The world's biggest mobile phone conference will take an off-year amid fears over the spread of coronavirus. 

According to Bloomberg, the GSM Association, (GSMA) which orchestrates the Mobile World Congress (MWC) - a global gathering that takes place every year in Barcelona set to kick off on February 24 - is now calling the trade show 'impossible'.

'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 GSMA CEO John Hoffman in a statement to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg says its unclear who exactly will shoulder the cost of MWC's cancellation with some of the world's biggest tech companies spending tens of millions of dollars to exhibit at the show.

Admission to the convention costs 799 euros ($872) according to Bloomberg. It's unclear what the organization's policy on refunds will be and MailOnline has reached out for clarification.

The news follows reports that both BT and Nokia would join the growing list of tech companies to pull out of the world's biggest mobile phone showcase due to coronavirus fears.  

'Primary focus has been to safeguard the health and well-being of employees and others while also recognizing responsibility to the industry and customers,' BT said in a statement.

'The conclusion of that process is that we believe the prudent decision is to cancel our participation at Mobile World Congress.

Amazon, LG, Sony, Intel and Facebook, had already withdrawn from the event.   

The cancellation of MWC is the latest in a string of disruptions to the tech world stemming from coronavirus fears.

Apple has been among the tech companies affected with major delays threatening products like its AirPods and iPhones which are manufactured in a Chinese facility called Foxconn that has ceased operations due to the virus.

MWC, which showcases new products and feature announcements, attracts more than 100,000 visitors and its cancellation marks a major turned around from GSMA which had said earlier this week that the conference would go ahead as planned. 

While GSMA had introduced a number of new safety measures to prevent the spread of the strain of coronavirus, officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation, a board of organizers decided those safeguards wouldn't go far enough to mitigate risk.

Previously, MWC banned attendees from the Chinese province of Hubei – where the strain Covid-19 is thought to have originated and anyone who had recently been to China was  asked to confirm that they have been outside the country for 14 days prior to the show.

Organizers also confirmed that temperature screening was set to be in place and was encouraging those attending to adopt a 'no-handshake' policy.

As of Wednesday morning, the total number of cases of Covid-19 was around 45,000 globally, with the number of deaths in mainland China reaching 1,113.  


Over two dozen large trade fairs and industry conferences in China and overseas have been postponed or hit by travel curbs and concerns about the spread of a coronavirus, potentially disrupting billions of dollars worth of deals.

In order of scheduled or likely dates:

* Taipei International Book Exhibition, Feb. 4-9 - Billed as Taiwan's largest annual literary event, the exhibition has been postponed to May 7-12.

* League of Legends Pro League, due to start Feb. 5: The e-sports league owned by gaming giant Tencent Holdings said it would postpone the start of its second week until further notice.

* Singapore Airshow, Feb. 11-16: The aviation leadership summit scheduled on the eve of the event was canceled. The show itself will go ahead as planned, but on a smaller scale with more than 70 exhibitors pulling out and the number of public tickets halved.

* China Commodity Markets Insight Forum 2020, Feb. 19-20: The forum held by S&P Global Platts was delayed until further notice.

* National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (NATAS) travel fair 2020, Feb. 21-23: Moved to May because exhibitors were concerned about turnout at the fair.

* Amazon pulled out of the Feb. 24-27 Mobile World Congress telecoms conference in Barcelona, El Mundo newspaper reported. U.S. chipmaker Nvidia, Swedish equipment maker Ericsson and South Korea's LG Electronics have also withdrawn.

* China Iron Ore 2020, Feb. 25-27: The event held by Fastmarkets in Beijing has been postponed to June 30-July 2.

* East China Import and Export Commodity Fair, March 1-4:Due to be held in Shanghai, the fair usually attracts traders of garments and household goods. It was postponed until further notice.

* Malaysia's biggest palm oil conference, the Palm and Lauric Oils Price Outlook Conference and Exhibition, or POC2020, originally scheduled for March 2-4, will be rescheduled to June 22-24.

* Marine Money China, March 3-4: Originally slated to be held in Shanghai, organizers of the meeting for shipping financiers have said that it has been delayed, likely until November.

* Food & Hotel Asia in Singapore, March 3-6: Organisers of the biennial trade show have postponed its first leg to July. The event attracted more than 80,000 attendees when it was last held in 2018.

* National People's Congress, likely to have started March 5: China is considering delaying the annual meeting of its top legislative body, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

* 6th China LNG & Gas International Exhibition and Summit, Shanghai, March 4-6: Organizers said the event has been postponed until a later date this year. They are in the process of confirming the new date.

* Asian Ferroalloys, March 16-18: The conference by Fastmarkets, due to be held in Shanghai, has been postponed with no new date given.

* Art Basel Hong Kong show, March 19-21: The high-profile annual show has been canceled.

* SEMICON/FPD China 2020, March 18-30: The annual trade conference for the global chip industry in China was postponed until further notice.

* China Development Forum, usually late March: Hosted by a foundation under the State Council, the conference was postponed until further notice.

* Canton Fair, spring season from April 15: The venue of China's oldest and biggest trade fair said it has suspended exhibitions until further notice. (Reporting by Brenda Goh, Shanghai Newsroom and Emily Chow in Shanghai, Min Zhang and Shivani Singh in Beijing, John Geddie in Singapore and Jessica Jones in Madrid Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Himani Sarkar, Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry)

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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