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Telecom industry cancels major event due to coronavirus fears

A major telecom industry event in Barcelona has been canceled after high-profile companies including Ericsson, Nokia and Amazon pulled out over fears about the spread of coronavirus, its organizers announced Wednesday.

“The global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event,” John Hoffman, the CEO of global telecom operators’ lobby GSMA, said in a statement.

The Mobile World Congress, which was due to be held from February 24-27, draws thousands of participants from China every year, including staff members from companies like Huawei, ZTE and China Mobile. The GSMA estimates that about 5,000-6,000 attendees travel from China to attend the conference, which has more than 100,000 people attending in total.

The lobby’s decision follows an announcement of Finnish equipment maker Nokia earlier Wednesday that it was canceling its participation. Swedish telecom vendor Ericsson and tech giants Amazon, Sony, LG and others confirmed in past days that they were withdrawing from the event.

Chinese telecom manufacturers Huawei and ZTE previously announced they had restricted employee travel, changed travels plans and forced senior staff to go into self-imposed quarantine ahead of the conference.

In past days the GSMA took several measures aimed at containing the health risks and addressing concerns. The association announced it was implementing a no-handshake policy, “temperature screening” and bans on travelers from the Hubei province as well as other restrictions. But the measures didn’t stop big-name sponsors and companies withdrawing from the conference.

Cristina Gallardo contributed to this report.

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