February 10, 2020

LONDON (AP) - Two big Japanese companies are the latest to pull out of a major European technology show due to fears over the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Electronics manufacturer Sony and mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo said Monday that they're scrapping their appearances at Mobile World Congress, the world's biggest mobile-industry trade fair, in Barcelona, Spain, this month.

Sony Corp. will instead launch its latest devices through its YouTube channel on Feb. 24, the first day of the show

"As we place the utmost importance on the safety and well-being of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating," Sony said. 

NTT DoCoMo said that given the expanding impact of the virus, it had canceled out of consideration for the safety of its staff, visitors and partners. 

Amazon said over the weekend that it is withdrawing "due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus." The e-commerce giant's cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, was expected to have a big presence at the show.

Organizers and local authorities remained upbeat. "We don't envision any other possibility but the celebration of the Mobile World Congress," Barcelona's deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, told reporters. He noted that while the companies that have pulled out are among the show's biggest exhibitors, they're only a handful of the 2,800 taking part.

GSMA, the show organizer, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but said Sunday  it is "moving ahead as planned" with the event, and outlined additional health-and-safety measures. They include banning visitors from China's Hubei province, where the outbreak originated; requiring people who have been in China to prove they left at least 14 days earlier; and carrying out temperature screening.

"We are contending with a constantly evolving situation that will require fast adaptability," the GSMA said. It had already planned to step up cleaning and disinfecting measures, has recommended a "no handshake policy" and is making sure speakers share microphones.

Last week, Swedish equipment maker Ericsson, one of the show's biggest exhibitors, dropped out, along with South Korean electronics giant LG and graphics-chip maker Nvidia. China's ZTE, meanwhile, scaled back by dropping its press conference. 

More than 100,000 people, including 5,000-6,000 from China, typically attend Mobile World Congress and organizers were expecting similar figures this year.

China reported a rise in new virus cases Monday, denting optimism that disease-control measures including isolating major cities, might be working, while the operator of a cruise ship in Japan reported dozens of new cases

Hong Kong canceled an arts festival, including two concerts by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing announced Saturday the death of the first known U.S. citizen from the virus, at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, China - the epicenter of the outbreak. 

Britain declared the virus an "imminent threat" and said it would forcibly detain infected people if necessary. France tested 45 children and their parents after five British tourists contracted the virus at a ski resort.

More Chinese workers and shoppers went back to offices and markets following the Lunar New Year, which was extended to discourage travel and reduce the risk the virus might spread.

China reported consumer inflation spiked to an eight-year high in January, possibly boosted by panic-buying and hoarding as word of the outbreak and anti disease measures spread.

The turmoil in China over the virus is disrupting supply chains around the world, as well, with Nissan the latest manufacturer to announce a suspension. The company said that, due to supply shortages from China, the Nissan Kyushu facility in Japan will stop production on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17. Hyundai said last week that it was suspending production in South Korea, while Fiat Chrysler said it might have to do the same for a plant in Europe if disruptions continue. The trouble in supply chains was reflected in losses in the container business, estimated at about $350 million a week, according to industry site Maritime Denmark.

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Joe McDonald, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and Jan Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.