Swedish tech giant Ericsson has become the latest in a string of high-profile companies to pull out of attending MWC Barcelona 2020 over fears related to the novel coronavirus.
The company said that it had made the decision “after an extensive internal risk assessment”, but concluded that it would be unable to “guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors”.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We were looking forward to showcasing our latest innovations at MWC in Barcelona,” said Börje Ekholm, president and CEO of Ericsson.
“It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event.”
It follows an announcement by South Korean tech giant LG on 5 February where the company said it had withdrawn its attendance at MWC due to the risk of exposing its employees, partners and customers to the coronavirus.
A similar announcement was also made by ZTE on 4 February.
Coronavirus concerns: Ericsson withdrawal puts MWC in further jeopardy
MWC Barcelona 2020 is considered the biggest telecoms event in the world, and had expected 109,000 attendees this year before the coronavirus caused numerous companies to cancel their attendance plans.
On 6 February, GSMA, which runs MWC Barcelona, put out a statement confirming that the event would proceed as planned, despite concerns around the spread of the novel coronavirus, and confirmed that it has “implemented many measures to help to mitigate the spread of the virus”.
These include boosting on-site first aid facilities, building plans with local public health authorities, setting up a free 24-hour security and medical telephone service and issuing hygiene recommendations to all hotels, transport providers and food suppliers in the area.
Presumably heartened by this announcement, some companies have opted to stay the course, but employ extra measures to protect their employees and customers.
Huawei, for example, confirmed to Verdict that it would be attending:
“We are working with GSMA on preventative measures to help contain the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus. The health and safety of our employees and other attendees is our top priority for this event.”
But with three major attendees now not coming to the event, and others opting to quarantine their own staff as a precaution ahead of the event, GSMA may be forced to take more drastic measures as time goes on.