Japanese technology giant Rakuten has become the latest company to cancel its attendance at Mobile World Congress (MWC) Barcelona 2020 over fears surrounding the novel coronavirus, now named Covid-19.

The company announced the decision in a statement in its website, published early on 12 February.

“Due to concerns about the novel coronavirus and in the interests of the health and safety of our customers, partners and employees, Rakuten Mobile has decided to withdraw its participation in Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2020,” the company wrote.

“Rakuten Mobile will continue to work towards the launch of its world-first cloud native mobile network in April 2020.”

The decision covers all of its subsidiary companies, including messaging platform Viber, which confirmed to Verdict that it would also not be attending MWC due to the coronavirus as part of the decision by Rakuten.

Rakuten joins coronavirus cancellations, putting MWC in doubt

Rakuten joins a long and rapidly growing list of organisations that have decided to cancel their attendance at MWC over fears relating to the coronavirus.

Among those who have already cancelled their attendance are LG, AT&T, Amazon, Facebook and Ericsson. Antivirus giant McAfee also joined their ranks on Tuesday.

The growing list is beginning to cast serious doubt on whether MWC should and will go ahead, with growing numbers of technology enthusiasts and industry professionals taking to Twitter to call on organiser GSMA to cancel the event.

GSMA had expected 109,000 people to attend MWC 2020, but that number is now likely to be significantly reduced.

In its latest statement, published on 9 February, GSMA insisted that MWC 2020 would be going ahead, but outlined stepped up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. These include temperature screening, increased disinfection efforts and restrictions on those travelling from China.

However, with more cancellations expected today, the question of a complete cancellation is likely to become increasingly pressing.


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