Facebook F8 conference cancelled over coronavirus fears

Events around the world are being disrupted with more likely to follow

Facebook has announced it is cancelling its annual F8 developer conference due to growing concerns over the coronavirus, with 2020's biggest events likely to follow. 

F8, which attracted some 5,000 developers last year, was set to be held in California on 5 and 6 May. The company will organise locally hosted events via video and live streams instead.  

The spread of COVID-19, a novel strain of the coronavirus, has disrupted businesses in China as well as supply chains around the world, with cases popping up in Europe, Africa and even the US. Three people in the state of California, the home of many of the world's biggest tech companies, have reportedly tested positive for the virus. 

"Given the growing concerns around COVID-19, we've made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 2020," Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's Platform Partnerships director, said in a blog post.

"This was a tough call to make - F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it's one of our favourite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world - but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on. We explored other ways to keep the in-person part of F8, but it's important to us to host an inclusive event and it didn't feel right to have F8 without our international developers in attendance."

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Google also has a conference planned for May, which is still scheduled to go ahead, though the company is monitoring the situation, according to Reuters. Given how widespread the cases are, and the fact that it has already disrupted some of the world's biggest events, Facebook is unlikely to be the last tech firm to pull the plug on an event. 

Cases of the virus in Northern Italy have forced Serie A football matches to be either postponed or played behind closed doors and male and female Six Nations games have also been cancelled.

There are also fears the outbreak will disrupt - and possibly postpone - the Olympics games in Tokyo, which could suggest other events are at risk - such as the multi-nation hosting European Football Championships in June.

From a tech perspective, the coronavirus has already seen the cancellation of MWC and also disruption to this week's RSA conference with tech giant's Microsoft and IBM pulling out at the last minute and also Intel cancelling briefing sessions at its San Francisco tech summit. 

Apple has seen its fair share of troubles with the virus, largely due to its Chinese supply chain, but it is reopening its factories in the country according to CEO, Tim Cook.

"It feels to me that China is getting the coronavirus under control," Cook said on Fox Business. "I mean you look at the numbers, they're coming down day by day by day. And so I'm very optimistic there.

"When you look at the parts that are done in China, we have reopened factories, so the factories were able to work through the conditions to reopen. They're reopening. They're also en-ramp, and so I think of this as sort of the third phase of getting back to normal. And we're in phase three of the ramp mode."

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