Two of China’s largest mobile companies are set to sideline employees from their home country at a major upcoming tech conference amid fears over coronavirus.
Huawei and ZTE have both put measures in place ahead of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona later this month to minimise risk from the outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has now killed more than 490 people.
In a statement released today ZTE said its booth presentation staff will be from “countries outside China, and mainly from Europe”. It added that all senior staff members taking part in high-level meetings will be isolated in Europe for at least two weeks prior to the conference.
Huawei, which has more than 12,000 staff in Europe, said that employees who have not been in China or had contact with those who have will take a “much more prominent role” in all MWC events.
It comes after South Korean tech firm LG said it had decided to withdraw entirely from the event.
“This 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,” it said in a statement.
Coronavirus has now reached 20 countries and has been classed a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, however it is not yet considered a pandemic.
The outbreak has impacted supply chains amid calls from Beijing to halt work at all factories in a bid to stem the spread of the virus.
But Huawei, which is the world’s second largest smartphone maker and has been subject to fierce scrutiny over its links to the Chinese state, was granted an exemption as a critical industry and has resumed production of goods at its factories in Guangdong.
While the companies are taking precautions against the virus, the outbreak has also sparked fears of xenophobia, with some British Chinese people living in the UK reporting that they have been targeted with racist abuse linked to the disease.
A spokesperson for GSMA, which organises MWC, said: “We have spoken to LG and regret not to see them at this year’s MWC20 Barcelona.
“We can confirm that there is minimal impact on the event thus far and MWC Barcelona 24-27 February 2020, will proceed as planned.”