More companies bail on MWC as GSMA updates coronavirus precautions

Barcelona
In addition to NTT and Sony, Amdocs and Commscope have also canceled participation at this year's MWC in Barcelona. (Getty Images)

Additional companies, including Japan’s Sony and NTT DoCoMo, have announced they’ll skip this year’s MWC in Barcelona over coronavirus concerns, as GSMA meanwhile, continues to beef up health precautions.

NTT and Sony’s announcements came Monday and follow withdrawals over the weekend of chipmaker Nvidia and test and measurement company Viavi Solutions.

NTT’s president and CEO Kazuhiro Yoshizawa is slated to deliver a keynote presentation the first day of the show, though it was unclear from NTT’s brief statement if that will still happen as planned.

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Amdocs also on Monday announced it won’t attend the mobile industry’s largest conference, taking place February 24-27, citing public health concerns.

“In the face of the public health concern from the novel coronavirus, we are placing the highest priority on protecting the health of our employees, customers and partners. While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona,” said Shuky Sheffer, president and chief executive officer of Amdocs, in a statement.

CommScope has also backed out of MWC, as well as Amazon, according to The Mobile Network.

Amdocs said it will hold business meetings and workshops at customers’ office to showcase its solutions, while Sony plans to host a YouTube webcast in place of its press conference at MWC.

The latest cancellations come after telecom equipment giant Ericsson, and LG Electronics withdrew last week from the show. Nokia still plans to go as of last week, but continues to monitor the situation, which it called “fluid.”

RELATED: Ericsson drops out of MWC over coronavirus concerns, Nokia weighs plans

As GSMA works to alleviate concerns, it released a new statement Sunday outlining enhanced health measures for MWC 2020 that include a ban on any travelers from China’s Hubei province, where the novel coronavirus originated.

In addition, GSMA is imposing a rule that requires all travelers from China to show proof that they’ve been outside the country for at least 14 days prior to the event.

With the show two weeks away, that means companies would have already had to move employees that are attending out of China.  

According to the Mobile Network, which is keeping running tabs on MWC drop-outs, two Chinese firms Coosea Group (attending under the name Sichuan koobee) and Umidigi won’t be attending.  

China’s Huawei, which has one of the largest show floor exhibits, still plans to participate, but is taking extra precautions. So is China’s ZTE, which cancelled a press conference and said its presentation booth will be staffed by representatives mainly from Europe.

Additional precautions

Despite confirming withdrawal from large exhibitors and noting that others are still “contemplating next steps,” GSMA maintains the event is still going strong with more than 2,800 exhibitors. It said historically 5,000-6,000 exhibitors and attendees have come from China, representing about 5-6% of the show’s average 100,000 attendees.

Additional new health measures include temperature screening and requiring participants to self-certify they have not been in contact with an infected person. This adds to other steps, including increased cleaning and disinfection, double the amount of onsite medical support from last year, added signage, a microphone disinfecting and change protocol for speakers and advising a “no-handshake policy” for attendees.  

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

There will also be a 24-hour telephone security and medical service for all attendees, from February 12-29. In addition to the GSMA, health officials have stressed that the city is not a public health risk zone, but is taking its own preventative measures and is ready to handle the influx of MWC visitors.

“The Catalan health system is prepared to detect and treat coronavirus, to give the most appropriate response, and this must be clear to those attending MWC Barcelona,” said Catalan Health Minister Alba Vergés, speaking Friday at a press conference.  

She noted that there have not been any coronavirus cases in Catalonia so far, and four suspected cases were negative.

Antoni Trilla, head of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology Department at Hospital Clínic Barcelona, said: "Our health system is prepared but we are not in an exceptional situation".

GSMA estimates that the Barcelona economy got a roughly $515 million boost from the MWC event last year, according to Reuters.

The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30. It has claimed more than 900 lives in mainland China, with more than 40,000 infected people, according to Reuters. More than 300 confirmed cases have cropped up outside of China.

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