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World Mobile Congress canceled over virus fears

Agence France-Presse

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BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Organizers of the World Mobile Congress said Wednesday they have canceled the world’s top mobile trade fair due to fears stemming from the coronavirus that sparked an exodus of industry heavyweights.

The mobile fair is one of the biggest events worldwide to be cancelled so far owing to the virus that has killed more than 1,100 people to date.

The announcement came after the GSMA, the mobile trade association that organizes the annual show, met to decide the fate of the event that had been planned to run in Barcelona from 24 to 27 February.

“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,” a statement said.

It added that the decision was made with “due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country,” and that host city parties understood the cancellation.

Just hours before the meeting took place, Vodafone, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, Britain’s BT and Rakuten of Japan had pulled out, following in the footsteps of Intel, Facebook, Cisco and China’s Vivo.

A source close to the event had said that organizers were wary of being left with a cancellation bill of about 100 million euros ($110 million). They faced resistance from authorities about declaring a health emergency in Spain which would allow insurance to cover the costs.

So far, Spain has only registered two confirmed cases of infection, on offshore islands.

The annual congress normally draws more than 100,000 people, including between 5,000 and 6,000 participants from China, organizers say.

But this year, participation was hammered by the viral outbreak which has infected around 44,600 people worldwide.

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