Mobile World Congress is the biggest mobile trade show, and yet, this year’s event in Barcelona has been cancelled before it even got started.
On 12 February, the GSMA, the organisation behind MWC, confirmed the show will not go on as planned, as the coronavirus made it “impossible” to continue, according to Bloomberg and the Financial Times. It was originally scheduled to run between 24 February and 27 February.
GSMA also released a statement, noting it cancelled the event “with due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona”.
Pocket-lint on Wednesday announced it would not attend the show after several major companies had already pulled out. Intel, Vivo, and chip-manufacturer Mediatek were among the latest tech giants to announce they wouldn’t travel.
Hundreds of thousands of mobile enthusiasts and journalists also usually go to MWC, with over 100,000 attending last year’s show.
There are concerns about a gathering of that many people, some of whom may come from China or work for Chinese tech companies, and how it could exasperate the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which is wreaking havoc across mainland China. Several reports are beginning to cover the panic or hysteria over coronavirus and subsequent rise in anti-Asian racism.
According to John Hopkins University data, more than 42,000 people have been diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV). At the time of this writing, more than 1,000 people have died. The deaths are mostly limited to China.
For comparison, the CDC said 15 million people in the US have been diagnosed with the flu so far during the 2019-2020 flu season, and 8,200 people have died.
Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine to prevent a 2019-nCoV infection.