Mobile World Congress, one of the most important events in the tech industry calendar, has been cancelled due to concerns over the global spread of the coronavirus, organisers have said.
The news comes after a series of big names – among them Facebook, Cisco Systems, and Intel – pulled out of the conference citing similar concerns. Spanish and Catalan authorities had insisted it would go ahead.
John Hoffman, the chief executive of the event’s organiser – the GSMA – has said:
“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.”
He added that his “sympathies at this time are with those affected in China, and all around the world”.
Referring to the diagnosis in London that emerged less than an hour ago, the chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has said:
“One further patient in England has tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of cases in the UK to nine. This virus was passed on in China and the patient has now been transferred to a specialist NHS centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.”
The Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme for World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Michael Ryan, says that fewer than a quarter of the cases outside China were transmitted outside China. In only eight cases globally have they failed to find a plausible explanation for the transmission.
Asked about reports that the Chinese authorities silenced those warning of the virus at the end of last year, Ryan says that the country’s government notified WHO as soon as there was evidence of the outbreak.
He said that given the country’s huge population and the fact that the symptoms are so similar to influenza, the speed of the identification of the outbreak was impressive. “Now is not the time for recrimination, now is not the time for forensics, now is the time to fight this virus,” he said.
Asked about reports that the coronavirus epidemic could be over by April, Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, says he would love to be able to predict the future, “but we need to be cautious”.
He says that evidence of the stabilisation of cases is very reassuring. “We expect to see the virus come under control but we’re not going to talk about numbers or dates … It’s way too early to predict the beginning, the middle or the end of this epidemic.”