The outbreak and rapid spread of a new coronavirus, recently named Covid-19, from Wuhan, China has been disrupting normal life, not only in China and its neighboring countries but also remote parts of the world, over the past few weeks as fear of the deadly virus escalates.
As of Thursday, the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world’s largest cellphone trade show scheduled to kick off on February 24 in Barcelona, Spain, has become the latest international event cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
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The event’s organizer, GSMA, said in a statement late Wednesday, “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.”
Ahead of the official cancellation, many high-profile attendees had already pulled out of the conference—Amazon, Facebook, LG, Sony, Intel, Sprint and Nvidia, just to name a few. Only a handful of Chinese firms, including Huawei and Oppo, insisted on attending.
Without the presence of these major participants, the organizers worried that the show would be a disaster if they didn’t call it off, although Barcelona’s local government said the region’s health system is “absolutely ready to detect and treat Covid-19.”
There are, so far, two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Spain. Neither is in the Barcelona area. The region is safe for the time being as 21 people brought back from Wuhan to Spain have completed their quarantine at a Madrid hospital as of Thursday.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced several business and cultural events to shut down since February: Art Basel Hong Kong, scheduled for mid March, was called off last Thursday and a Formula 1 race scheduled for April 19 in Shanghai was postponed this week.
Since its eruption in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December, the Covid-19 virus has killed over 1,100 people and infected nearly 60,000 globally. On Thursday alone, cases of infection spiked to more than 14,000 after Chinese health care authorities expanded the definition of what constitutes a confirmed case. Before Thursday, a confirmed case would required a positive lab test. The new case definition requires only a symptom-based diagnosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the practice is normal during the course of an outbreak like Covid-19.