Amazon, Sony skipping mobile congress owing to virus

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 10 2020 09:42 PM

Employees place a banner with information of MWC20 (Mobile World Congress) in Barcelona, Spain February 5, 2020. Nacho Doce, Reuters

MADRID - Amazon and Sony said Monday they will steer clear of the world's biggest mobile tech fair in Barcelona at the end of this month owing to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The US and Japanese heavyweights joined a list of companies that includes Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson and South Korean giant LG that will forego attending the annual gathering that is to take place on February 24-27 this year.

"Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020," a Spanish-language statement said.

A Sony statement said: "As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC 2020 in Barcelona."

The Japanese group has maintained an internet news conference on February 24 however to present its new products.

The MWC is a major date on tech company calendars and normally draws more than 109,000 people from all over the world to see the latest innovations and gadgets from 2,800 exhibitors.

The mobile trade association GSMA that organizes the congress said Sunday it was taking drastic precautions this year to ease concerns that it could become a hub for the virus to spread.

To date, more than 40,000 people have been infected and more than 900 have died.

The Barcelona congress will be off-limits to anyone from the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus first broke out, and visitors from other parts of China will have to show they have been outside the country for two weeks before arriving in Spain.

Chinese tech groups ZTE and Huawei still plan to attend but their representatives are to be carefully vetted.

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 said.

Meanwhile, personnel will be on hand to take visitors' temperatures.

Spain has not declared a health emergency and only two cases of coronavirus have been detected in the country so far, one in the Canary Islands and one on the Mediterranean island of Majorca.

"Everything will be done to ensure the participant's peace of mind," Barcelona Mayor Jaume Collboni told Antena 3 television.