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MWC Barcelona 2020 Called Off Due To Coronavirus

With many of the world's tech heavy hitters out of the lineup, the GSMA Association officially calls off MWC 2020.

Mobile World Congress 2020 in Barcelona has officially been cancelled.

With the tech world's heavy hitters out of the lineup, the world's biggest telecom show would have been "impossible" to hold, according to GSMA Association CEO John Hoffman.

 "With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," said the GSM Association, the organization that runs MWC Barcelona, said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

MWC Barcelona 2020 was to begin on February 24.

[Related: Apple Facing Further iPhone Production Constraints From Coronavirus]

Many of the world's largest tech companies changed their RSVPs to not attending this week in the wake of the outbreak, including Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Facebook, Intel, LG, and Sprint, due to coronavirus.

Vendors aren't the only ones being affected by the outbreak. Long View Networks, a solution provider based in Calgary, Alberta, hasn't seen its revenues affected by coronavirus, but the company had planned a briefing with Cisco executives scheduled for early March that it has had to push out due to concerns around travel because of coronavirus.

"We decided that based on the hesitation of our clients to move it until May," said Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances for Long View Systems.

Quy "Q" Nguyen, founder and CEO of Allyance Communications, one of the top global communications solution providers, said Mobile World Congress made the right decision.

“Think of the risk of going forward with a global conference that brings everyone together,” he said. “Think of the impact this virus is having on the citizens of the world and the global economy.”

Nguyen said the threat of the coronavirus is heightened at a global conference where a big attraction for the event is face to face meetings with customers and vendors. “There is now a concern with shaking hands or hugging,” he said. “No one wants to touch each other and a lot of people are wearing masks. That dehumanizes the conference.”

Nguyen, a member of Delta’s highest diamond status frequent flyer program who travels around the world meeting with Allyance customers, said he has altered his own business travel as a result of the coronavirus.

In fact, Nguyen -- who has been flying from the West Coast to the East Coast, trying to avoid connections in Asia for travel to the Middle East -- said he has been reluctant to travel as much with the coronavirus threat.

Nguyen said if China and the world do not make progress stopping the spread of the coronavirus it could have a disastrous impact on the global economy.

“If China does not get a handle on this there is going to be a trickle down effect with a negative impact on the global economy,” he said. “We could see a huge global economic impact with company’s stopping production or shutting down. This could have a bigger impact than the tariffs from President Trump.”

For Allyance- which hosts frequent charity driven business events – the frustration at not being able to find a way to help those impacted is frustrating, said Nguyen.

“We support a lot of charities like homelessness where we feel we can make a positive impact,” he said. “With the coronavirus we feel helpless. We just don’t know where to even begin to try to help.”

The number of novel coronavirus deaths has risen to 1,115, out of 45,171 cases diagnosed globally, World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom said in a press conference on Wednesday. Europe as of this writing has about 40 confirmed cases of coronavirus. Spain has two known cases, neither of which were identified in Barcelona.

Before cancelling the event on Wednesday, the GSM Association earlier this week had said that the event would still be going forward and that it would be implementing strict health screening measures for its attendees. It was also suggesting a “no handshake” policy to help further reduce any risk of transmission.

Steven Burke contributed to this article.  

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