Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, is the world’s biggest mobile trade show, but the coronavirus will be making it a little smaller this year. Chinese phone manufacturer and telecom giant ZTE just confirmed that it’s canceling its press conference at MWC 2020, citing secondary effects of the virus outbreak.
It’s partly due to practical issues like travel and visa delays, a spokesperson tells The Verge — some people weren’t going to make it to Barcelona in time anyhow — but it sounds like the mild case of xenophobia that accompanies the disease may also play a role. “[We] tend to be an overly courteous company, and simply don’t want to make people uncomfortable,” writes the rep.
ZTE announced its first 5G phone at Mobile World Congress last year, and still plans to have a booth presence at the show this year according to a statement. “The ZTE Devices Press conference scheduled on February 25, which is just one of multiple planned activities, was cancelled. A wide variety of new 5G devices will be demonstrated at the ZTE booth during MWC 2020 as planned,” ZTE tells us via email.
So far, the organization that runs MWC has maintained that the 2020 show “will proceed as planned” and issued a statement hours ago that there has been “minimal impact on the event thus far.” Here’s a list of measures the GSMA is taking against the spread of the virus:
Increased cleaning and disinfection programme across all high-volume touchpoints, e.g. catering areas, surfaces, handrails, WCs, entrances/exits, public touch-screens, etc. along with the use of correct cleaning/sanitising materials and products
Increased onsite medical support
Awareness campaign via online and onsite info-share and signage
Availability of sanitising and disinfection materials for public use
Awareness and training to all staff and associates on standard personal preventative measures, e.g. personal hygiene, frequency of use of sanitising/disinfection products, etc.
Advice to exhibitors on implementing effective cleaning and disinfection of stands, offices along with guidance on personal hygiene measures and common preventive behaviour
Public health guidelines and advice communication to Barcelona hotels, public and private transport, restaurants and catering outlets, retail, etc.
Installing new signage onsite reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations
Implementing a mic change protocol in production for speakers
Communicating advice to all attendees to adopt a ‘no-handshake policy’
So far, the coronavirus has killed over 400 people, sickened over 20,000, impacted travel as many airlines have suspended flights, caused tech companies like Apple to temporarily shut down all offices out of an abundance of caution, and may threaten production. ZTE’s fellow Chinese tech giant Huawei postponed a developer conference due to the virus, too. We’re waiting to see whether business as usual resumes when China’s government-extended holiday ends on or around February 10th or if the situation will extend further.
Update, February 5th at 1:56PM ET: Article updated with additional statements from ZTE confirming the company will still have booth space at MWC this year.