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Amazon joins list of Mobile World Congress pull-outs on coronavirus fears

Technology titan Amazon has cancelled its plans for this month’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) trade show in Barcelona, citing concerns over the coronavirus.

Amazon joins Sony and others in opting not to exhibit or participate in the annual event, which always shines a light on major mobile, tech, and payments innovation from around the world. Last week, Ericsson president and CEO, Börje Ekholm, announced his company would no longer be involved in the global gathering, set for 24-27 February, to protect staff.

Ericsson said it will take the demos and content created for MWC Barcelona to customers in their home markets via local events called “Ericsson Unboxed”. Sony said it will live stream its planned press conference.

Event organiser GSMA, an association for mobile network operators, continues to regularly update its plans and rules for the event, in light of the growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, which has now killed 910 people – all but two of those have been in China.

The GSMA said on Sunday (9 February) it was putting new measures in place to protect event visitors and ensure their welfare, including a ban on all travellers from the Hubei province. All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event, while temperature screening will be implemented and attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

Increased cleaning and disinfection programmes across all high-volume touchpoints, such as catering areas, handrails, WCs, and public touch-screens, were already planned for.

Some 5,000-6,000 – or 5-6% of exhibitors and attendees – historically attend MWC Barcelona from China, each year.

While the GSMA confirms some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year and others are still contemplating next steps, it hasn’t provided a full list publicly. It said the event remains “more than 2,800 exhibitors strong”.

Last week, Burberry became the highest profile UK-based retailer to announce that the spread of the coronavirus will impact full-year sales. Some 24 of Burberry’s 64 stores in Mainland China are closed, in order to protect staff and help try to halt the spread of the virus.

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