Fears around the global spread of the Coronavirus have led organizers of the world’s largest smartphone exhibition to pull the plug on the show just days before it was due to open. The Mobile World Congress was due to run from the 24th -27th February in Barcelona, Spain, but after a number of exhibitors pulled out of the show a statement was released to say that going ahead with the event was ‘impossible.’

With a large part of the smartphone industry based in the Far East close to where the virus was first detected and where the most infections have been reported, fears had grown in the industry that the coming together of so many people could become a health hazard. Only a few days ago the GSMA, the owners of the show, issued a statement that said MWC would be going ahead and listed all the precautions organizers would be taking to minimize risk to exhibitors and visitors alike. Precautions included a ban on people from the Chinese Hubei province and anyone having visited China in the previous two weeks. In the end though, the risks were seen as too great to those attending and to the population of Barcelona itself.

A truncated section of the full statement currently visible on the MWC homepage.

The show had expected to attract more than 109,000 visitors for its 2400 exhibitors, including businesses, the public and international press. The next GSMA Mobile World Congress is due to be held at the end of June in Shanghai, with a further show in Los Angeles in October. Whether these events go ahead remains to be seen, but there must be a great deal of doubt over the Shanghai exhibition as it is only four months away and movement within China is extremely restricted at the moment.

Doubt must also be cast over the CP+ photography equipment exhibition that is due to be held in Yokohama, Japan, from the 27th February. This is also now an international show that attracts exhibitors from all nations that manufacturer camera equipment. According to the CP+ website, last year’s show brought in exhibitors from 120 countries and almost 70,000 visitors. Currently, the exhibition’s website has no obvious mention of the coronavirus and doesn’t list precautions organizers will be taking to secure the health of those attending. The Diamond Princess cruiseship, quarantined with 3600 passengers and crew still aboard after the infection spread to 175 people, is docked in Yokohama harbour close by.

To find out more about the Barcelona World Mobile Conference and the 2021 exhibition see the GSMA MWC website.

Press release:

GSMA Statement on MWC Barcelona 2020 from John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Limited

12 February 2020, Barcelona: Since the first edition of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2006, the GSMA has convened the industry, governments, ministers, policymakers, operators and industry leaders across the broader ecosystem.

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.

The Host City Parties respect and understand this decision.

The GSMA and the Host City Parties will continue to be working in unison and supporting each other for MWC Barcelona 2021 and future editions.

Our sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world.

Further updates from the GSMA, are on our website and can be found on www.mwcbarcelona.com.