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MWC may be cancelled due to coronavirus fear

Steve Rogerson
February 12, 2020



This month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona could be cancelled as big name exhibitors pull out due to fears over the coronavirus. Show organiser, the GSMA, is believed to be holding a meeting on Friday this week to decide the event’s fate.
 
The GSMA is reeling after some of the biggest names have pulled out, but, so far, Embedded World, held the same week in Nuremberg, has been largely unaffected.
 
The list of withdrawals from MWC includes Amazon, BT, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Intel, LG, MediaTek, NTT Docomo, Nvidia, Sony, Sprint, Vivo and Vodafone. Also, Apple and Facebook, neither of which have stands, have said they will not be sending their employees to the show.
 
The problems for the GSMA, organisers of MWC, started on Tuesday last week when LG pulled out, with the South Korean company saying it did not want to risk subjecting hundreds of its employees to international travel. On Friday, Ericsson also pulled out.
 
Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson, said in a statement: “The health and safety of our employees, customers and other stakeholders are our highest priority. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona. It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”
 
The company said it appreciated that the GSMA had done everything it could to control the risk. However, it said, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson was expecting thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk was low, the company could not guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.
 
The GSMA responded by putting in additional safety guards on top of the health and safety measures it had already implemented. These included:

  • All travellers from the Hubai province will not be permitted access to the event.
  • All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event with passport stamp or health certificate.
  • Temperature screening will be implemented.
  • Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.
Oddly, the other big show happening that week – Embedded World in Nuremberg – has introduced far less stringent safety measures but has not seen the mass withdrawals hitting MWC. The most notable withdrawal is Swiss firm ST Microelectronics, which has pulled out of both shows.
 
In a statement, it said: “We have had a number of enquiries about coronavirus and would like to assure you that the medical care available at the Exhibition Centre Nuremberg will be at its usual highly professional level, and that exhibitors, trade visitors and journalists will enjoy the best possible protection. An entire package of measures is in place to ensure you are fully protected: in addition to our proven emergency management systems and the Bavarian Red Cross station, which will have interpreters standing by, extra disinfectant dispensers will be placed around the venue, and heavily used areas and fittings like entrances, door handles and staircases will be kept clean over and above their usual high standard.”
 
When asked why they were not being as strict as MWC, Bertold Brackemeier from Embedded World said in two emails: “Nürnberg Messe is an international exhibition centre and, of course, exhibitors and visitors from China will also take part in our events. There is no reason to deny access to our exhibitions to persons of a specific nationality for health or safety reasons.
 
“According to the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA), thermal imaging cameras or mouthguards for everyone are not very helpful in the case of the coronavirus. Instead, the BZgA recommends good hand hygiene as the most important and effective measure for personal protection. Nürnberg Messe has a well-established and professional emergency management system. Apart from the police and fire brigade, this also includes a first aid station, which has even been supplemented by interpreters.”
 
The show has about 230 exhibitors from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
 
MWC in Barcelona runs from 24 to 27 February and Embedded World in Nuremberg from 25 to 27 February.