By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - The Mobile World Congress (MWC) has officially been cancelled as a response to dozens of high-profile companies abandoning the event over fears of coronavirus transmission.
“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 Wednesday evening.
GSMA is the organizer of the event that was scheduled to run in the Catalan capital for three days starting on Feb. 24. The Mobile World Congress is billed as one of the most popular annual technology events, where technology companies gather to show off their latest innovations related to mobile phones.
GSMA held two emergency meetings on Wednesday to decide the fate of the 2020 edition.
The meetings were triggered after BT -- formerly British Telecom -- Nokia, Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone all said on Wednesday they were pulling out of the event.
“While the potential risk is hard to quantify accurately at this stage, we have taken this decision because we place the utmost importance in the safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and partners,” said Vodafone in a statement on Wednesday.
In total, over 35 tech companies had cancelled their attendance including Facebook, Amazon and Sony.
GSMA announced measures last week intended to boost the event’s safety, including a ban on travelers from China’s Hubei province and temperature screening. Evidently, they were not enough.
According to Spanish Daily El Pais, the event brings around €492 million ($536 million) to the city of Barcelona and creates 14,000 temporary jobs.
Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau had told media Wednesday morning that the city was still prepared to host the event. “Sanitary authorities say there is no reason for alarm,” she said.
Later on Wednesday, health authorities in Catalonia also emphasized that the city was safe.
Spain has confirmed two cases of coronavirus, neither of which was transmitted across the country.
According to a report by American financial services company Standard & Poor's Global Ratings on Wednesday, the effects of the virus could reduce growth in Europe 0.1%-0.2%.