GSMA cites ‘minimal impact’ on MWC from Coronavirus as LG, ZTE retreat

The GSMA has advised MWC20 attendees to adopt a "no-handshake policy." (Getty Images)

As the mobile industry readies for MWC20 in Barcelona later this month, the GSMA released a statement Tuesday saying it confirmed “minimal impact” on the event thus far from the newly identified coronavirus.

In its statement the GSMA said the Barcelona event, happening February 24-27, “will proceed as planned” across all venues at the Fira Gran Via, though the organization says it’s continuing to monitor and assess potential impact from the virus.

The viral outbreak of acute respiratory disease, called 2019-nCoV, was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31. On January 30 the World Health Organization declared the situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and as of February 4 there were 20,471 confirmed cases of the virus within China, where it’s claimed 425 lives, according to the WHO Situation Report - 15. That includes 3,235 newly confirmed cases in China within 24 hours of the last report.

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Outside of China there were 159 confirmed cases and one death as of Tuesday, spanning 23 countries, including in the Western Pacific, South-East Asia, Americas, European, and Eastern Mediterranean regions, according to WHO.

The MWC show typically attracts participants from all over the world, including major Chinese companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, and ZTE, among others.

So far ZTE and device giant LG Electronics have already cancelled some plans for this year's event. ZTE confirmed Tuesday that it’s cancelling its MWC 2020 press conference over secondary impacts from the virus outbreak, while LG said it's withdrawing from both participation and exhibition at the show out of safety for employees and the general public, according to the Verge.  

LG released a statement on its website saying, "With the safety of its employees, partners and customers foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain. This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders.In lieu of its participation in MWC, LG will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products."

The GSMA in emailed comments said "We have spoken to LG and regret not to see them" at this year's show, but reiterated its statement that there is little impact on the event so far. 

ZTE for its part on Wednesday published a new post saying that it will participate in MWC20 Barcelona as planned. That includes its booth presence, but ZTE noted its presentation staff will all come from countries outside of China, as part of “a series of strong prevention, control and safeguard measures” the company has adopted in response to the virus concern.

The GSMA said it’s adhering to advice from the WHO and other health authorities, and this week added measures to help stop the spread of the virus. Those include adding new signage to remind attendees of hygiene recommendations, a mic change protocol for participating speakers and advising all attendees to adopt a “no-handshake policy.”

GSMA already had additional measures in place that included increased cleaning and disinfection across places like handrails, bathrooms, and catering areas, as well as more onsite medical support.

Updated to include statement from LG Electronics and new ZTE post. 

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