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Amazon pulls out of major tech conference over coronavirus risk

This picture shows the logo of US online retail giant Amazon at the distribution center in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on December 17, 2019. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
Amazon said that its employees would not attend Mobile World Congress in Barcelona due to fears about coronavirus. (Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon (AMZN) has become the latest major tech company to pull out of Mobile World Congress, one of the world’s biggest tech conferences, due to fears about the continued spread of coronavirus.

The company said on Monday that it had made the decision “due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus.”

Amazon joins a high-profile list of companies, such as LG, Nvidia (NVDA), and Ericsson (ERIC), who have chosen to withdraw as exhibitors from the conference, which is due to take place later this month in Barcelona.

Mobile World Congress is considered the largest mobile industry exhibition and conference, and thousands of companies exhibit new technologies and products at the four-day event.

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GSM Association (GSMA), the organiser of Mobile World Congress, on Sunday issued a new set of coronavirus-related guidelines for the conference.

No travellers from China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, will be permitted to attend the conference, while those who have recently been to China will have to prove that they have been outside of the country for at least 14 days prior to the event.

The organiser said that it will also implement temperature screening, and that attendees will need to “self-certify” that they have not been in contact with anyone who has been infected by coronavirus.

It is also encouraging those attending the conference to adopt a “no-handshake” policy.

“Ericsson appreciates that GSMA have done everything they can to control the risk,” the Swedish telecoms company said last week.

“However, as one of the largest exhibitors, Ericsson has thousands of visitors in its hall each day and even if the risk is low, the company cannot guarantee the health and safety of its employees and visitors.”

China’s National Health Commission said on Monday that the death toll from coronavirus had now risen to over 900, with the total number of confirmed infections in the country now approaching 40,200.

Around 3,000 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, with most of them arising in Hubei province.