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LG and ZTE withdraw from MWC 2020 over coronavirus concerns

(Image credit: PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Mobile World Congress 2020 is set to kick off on Feb. 24, but today (Feb. 4) two major phone makers announced that they won't be attending the show due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

First, ZTE announced its intention to withdraw, while the GSMA — the body that operates Mobile World Congress — reconfirmed it would still hold the convention. The event organizer says it's taking a number of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure attendee health, including an "increased cleaning and disinfection program across all high-volume touch points."

Yet hours later, LG followed ZTE's example and withdrew itself, stating that its "decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel which has already become more restrictive as the virus continues to spread across borders.

"In lieu of its participation in MWC, LG will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products," the company's statement reads.

With ZTE and LG backing out, but the GSMA evidently still committed to ensuring the show goes on, eyes are watching MWC's other big name attendees — from Huawei, to Microsoft to Samsung — to see who else might follow suit. Even if the conference is still technically on, the absence of a number of major players may render it irrelevant.

For what it's worth, it's unclear how much of these companies' decisions to cancel are influenced entirely by coronavirus fears versus other factors. For example, a ZTE spokesperson told The Verge that it made the call partially as a consequence of travel and visa delays surrounding the outbreak, which may have already put the company's attendance in jeopardy. LG focused its statement entirely on the coronavirus — though if the company was planning a light MWC already, with few announcements, that might have made it easier to call its plans off.

Regardless, MWC 2020 stands in jeopardy because of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 300 lives and infected more than 20,000 at the time of writing. We'll be monitoring the news surrounding the event closely over the coming days.