LONDON – The impact on travel and commerce from the viral outbreak in China is playing out ahead of one of the world's biggest technology fairs.
Facebook, U.S. tech giants Cisco Systems and Intel, the U.S. wireless companies AT&T and Sprint and the Chinese smartphone maker Vivo said Tuesday that they have pulled out of the Mobile World Congress, which is to take place Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain. They join a host of other major communications and tech companies that have withdrawn.
This year's event was expected to host the largest contingent on record from China.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Facebook employees won’t be attending this year’s Mobile World Congress due to the evolving public health risks related to coronavirus," Facebook said in a statement.
AT&T cited the safety of its employees and customers in pulling out.
Already, Ericsson, Amazon, Sony and LG have scrapped plans to attend what has become the world's biggest mobile industry trade show. It was expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors, including 5,000 to 6,000 from China, the source of the viral outbreak that has infected tens of thousands of people and killed more than 1,000.
Event organizers for the Mobile World Congress have prohibited anyone traveling from the Hubei province, home to the virus epicenter of Wuhan. Attendees who have traveled in China must prove that they have not been there in the two weeks prior to the event.
Officials will be doing temperature screenings at the event, as well as increasing its efforts to disinfect high traffic areas and surfaces, like touch screens and handrails.
The cancellations will have an economic impact on Barcelona, the host city, though the extent is not known. The show was expected to generate 492 million euros ($538 million) this year, according to organizer GSMA, an industry trade group, and create more than 14,000 part-time jobs.
“While further planning is underway, we will continue to monitor the situation and will adapt our plans according to developments and advice we receive,” the GMSA said in a prepared statement." We are contending with a constantly evolving situation, that will require fast adaptability."