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Citing coronavirus concerns, LG pulls out of MWC 2020

The phone giant won't show up at the mobile trade show, which kicks off in Barcelona on Feb. 24. And ZTE has canceled its press conference.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Citing safety concerns for its employees and the general public given the global outbreak of the coronavirus, LG on Tuesday announced that it will "withdraw from exhibiting and participating" at Mobile World Congress 2020. MWC is the world's largest mobile trade show, and it takes place every February in Barcelona. LG is one of the highest-profile companies to pull out of the show, just weeks before it is set to start on Feb. 24. 

The South Korean electronics giant said in a statement that its decision will prevent "needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel." To announce its upcoming line of phone products, LG said it will hold other events in the near future.

MWC usually sets the stage for LG to launch its flagship line, known as its G-series, along with a few midrange devices too. As such, a successor to the LG G8 ThinQ, presumably called the LG G9 ThinQ, was expected to debut at the show.

LG is currently the only major company to completely withdraw from MWC, but others are being cautious because of the spread of the virus. 

The Chinese company ZTE has canceled its press conference at the show, but in a statement on Wednesday, it said that all other scheduled activities would go ahead as planned. ZTE added that it's taking precautions in light of the coronavirus outbreak including quarantining all staff from mainland China for two weeks ahead of traveling to the Barcelona and making sure all senior executives involved in high-level meetings spent those two weeks of isolation in Europe.

Among other companies expected at MWC, Huawei, Qualcomm, Sony, HMD and Xiaomi have confirmed to CNET that they don't plan any changes to their participation. Others we've contacted, including Samsung, Motorola and Ericsson, haven't replied to requests for comment.

GSMA, the organization that runs MWC, said in a separate statement that it's continuing to "monitor and assess the potential impact of the coronavirus" on the show. On top of increasing onsite medical support and disinfection programs, GSMA added three new measures:

  • Installing new signage onsite reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations
  • Implementing a mic change protocol in production for speakers
  • Communicating advice to all attendees to adopt a "no-handshake policy"
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Declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, coronavirus is a pneumonia-like illness that, as of Feb. 4, has killed 427 people. The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December, but has spread to 25 other countries with a recent count of 20,000 confirmed cases.

In addition to its health risks, the coronavirus has had a ripple effect on businesses and global industries. Companies including Apple, Google and Nintendo have closed offices, limited business travel and experienced supply chain disruptions.

Updated 5. Feb at 5 a.m. PT: Added details about ZTE. 12:50 p.m.: Added confirmation from Sony and HMD.