Coronavirus: Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress takes a hit as tech giant pulls out

Coronavirus: Barcelona's Mobile World Congress takes a hit as tech giant pulls out
File photo: AFP
The world's biggest mobile tech fair has suffered a blow from the deadly coronavirus outbreak after South Korea's LG Electronics said it was pulling out of the event in Spain later this month.

South Korea's LG Electronics, which usually occupies one of the largest spaces at the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, said late Tuesday it would not take part in the event this year, being held February

24-27, in order to safeguard “the safety of its employees, partners and customers”.

“This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders,” it added in a statement.

The company said it would instead hold separate events in the “near future” to unveil its new mobile products.

Meanwhile Shenzhen-based ZTE, which makes smartphones and wireless networking equipment, said while it was still taking part in the event it has “adopted a series of strong prevention, control and safeguard measures” against the spread of the coronavirus which has killed almost 500 people, mainly in China.

These include requiring that senior executives of the company taking part in “high-level meetings” at the gathering “will self-isolate themselves in Europe for at least two weeks prior to the MWC,” the company said in a statement.

ZTE's exhibition stand and equipment will be disinfected daily and all of its booth exhibition staff will come from countries outside of China, mainly from Europe, it added.   

All employees from mainland China, including non-Chinese nationals, who will take part at the trade show must have no symptoms two weeks before departure to the MWC.

ZTE unveiled its first flagship phone that is compatible with the latest, fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks at the event last year. It said it would showcase new 5G devices in Barcelona this year.

Mobile trade association GSMA which organises the event said in a statement it “continues to monitor and assess the potential impact of the coronavirus” on its fair and has “implemented many measures to help to mitigate the spread of the virus and is continuing to add other actions regularly.”   

These include advising exhibitors on how to best disinfect their stands and setting up signs reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations.   

Over 109,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the congress.

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