Ericsson AB withdrew from the telecommunications industry’s biggest annual event to protect its staff and visitors from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Swedish maker of mobile networks said it had pulled out of MWC Barcelona, due to be held on February 24 to February 27. As one of the largest exhibitors, with thousands of visitors in its hall each day, Ericsson said it could not guarantee the health and safety of employees and customers. Conference organisers said the event will proceed.
“It is very unfortunate, but we strongly believe the most responsible business decision is to withdraw our participation from this year’s event,” Ericsson Chief Executive Officer Borje Ekholm said.
“This is not a decision we have taken lightly.”
Ericsson’s move shows how the spread of the virus is beginning to disrupt business activity far from its epicenter.
The company’s absence will leave a gap bigger than a
standard American football field in the exhibition halls, based on the floorplan issued by the organisers.
The cancellation “will potentially have further impact,” the GSMA, the mobile industry lobby group and sponsor of the conference, said in a statement. “The GSMA continues to monitor and assess the potential impact of the coronavirus” on the event.
China has reported more than 31,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 600 people have died in the country since the outbreak began. The GSMA stepped up efforts to avoid infections at MWC, such as
encouraging a no-handshake policy and a protocol for changing microphones.