A worker arrives at the Mobile World Congress MWC venue on February 13, 2020 at the Fira Barcelona Montjuic centre in Barcelona. -AFP

THE Mobile World Congress (MWC) has become the first international tech event cancelled due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Organisers of the MWC, the world's top mobile trade fair, cancelled the event yesterday following an exodus of industry heavyweights from the event.

The mobile fair is one of the biggest international events to be axed over the virus that has killed nearly 1,500 people to date.

The announcement came after the GSMA, the mobile trade association that organises the annual show, met to decide the fate of the event that had been planned to run in Barcelona from Feb 24 to Feb 27.

"The GSMA has cancelled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event," a statement said.

GSMA's CEO John Hoffman, Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, Director General of the GSMA Mats Granryd and President of the Fira de Barcelona, Pau Relat attend a news conference to discuss cancellation of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Fira de Barcelona. -Reuters

It added that the decision was made with "due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country," and that host city parties understood the cancellation.

Just hours before the meeting took place, Vodafone, Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, Britain's BT and Rakuten of Japan had pulled out, following in the footsteps of Intel, Facebook, Cisco and China's Vivo.

A source close to the event had said that organisers were wary of being left with a cancellation bill of about €100 million. They faced resistance from authorities about declaring a health emergency in Spain which would allow insurance to cover the costs.

So far, Spain has only registered two confirmed cases of infection, on offshore islands.

The annual congress normally draws more than 100,000 people, including between 5,000 and 6,000 participants from China, organisers say.

But this year, participation was hammered by the viral outbreak which has infected over 64,000.