China’s major smartphone companies have adjusted their preparations in Spain for the world’s biggest mobile exhibition – bringing a smaller contingent than in previous years and sending them weeks ahead of the event – as concerns rise that further restrictions might be imposed on mainland Chinese travellers because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corp, Oppo and Xiaomi Corp are among the major Android smartphone makers expected to take part in the annual MWC Barcelona trade show, which will be held from February 24 to 27. The event, which is expected to have more than 109,000 attendees, will focus on the theme “limitless intelligent connectivity” delivered by 5G mobile systems.
As these Chinese smartphone giants have scaled back on staff taking part in MWC Barcelona, some firms have already sent assigned employees to Spain amid fears of more travel restrictions being imposed on mainland travellers and a further reduction of flights to and from China, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Countries like Italy, for example, have suspended passenger flights to and from China after two virus cases were confirmed in the country in late January.
The safety precautions have been implemented by the Chinese firms as the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in 490 deaths, overtaking the number of fatalities caused by the Sars epidemic in 2003, and 24,324 confirmed cases around the country, according to data released on Wednesday morning by China’s National Health Commission.
Shenzhen-based ZTE, which announced on Wednesday that it will cancel a press conference at MWC Barcelona for the unveiling of its latest 5G devices, has already sent a group of employees to the city, nearly three weeks ahead of the event.
“ZTE will ensure that all employees from mainland China, including non-Chinese nationals, have no symptoms two weeks before departure and arrival at MWC,” the company said in a statement.
It confirmed that senior executives taking part in high-level meetings will “self-isolate themselves in Europe for at least two weeks prior to MWC”.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment supplier, has already sent a small group of staff to Barcelona this week, with plans to send more employees to Europe over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Oppo, meanwhile, said in a statement that “the health and safety of Oppo’s employees are a top priority”. The Dongguan-based company vowed to “strictly follow the immigration requirements of every country and will provide comprehensive measures to ensure that employees travel safely”.
Xiaomi, headquartered in Beijing, said it has cancelled a trip planned for select mainland Chinese reporters to attend MWC Barcelona.
The GSM Association, which organises MWC Barcelona, said in a statement on Tuesday that cleaning and disinfecting of the exhibition areas will be stepped up. It also committed to educate staff as well as exhibitors on how to clean and disinfect stands and offices. Other measures include encouraging a “no handshake” policy among the event’s attendees.
Other major smartphone makers, however, have decided to skip MWC Barcelona this year. South Korean giant LG Electronics said on Wednesday that it was withdrawing from the trade show to minimise the risk to employees amid the spread of the coronavirus.