At least 20 Irish telecoms and tech firms could miss out as the world's biggest telecoms trade fair, Mobile World Congress, considers whether to cancel its 2020 conference due to fears over the coronavirus.
The organisers of the event, which attracts over 100,000 telecoms and tech professionals every year, have been hit in recent days with a deluge of withdrawals from some of the biggest exhibitors.
Yesterday, Nokia, Vodafone, BT and Deutsche Telekom pulled out, compounding the uncertainty over the event when Ericsson, LG and Intel withdrew days earlier.
Companies fear putting their executives in contact with others who may have been in the vicinity of the virus, especially in Chinese districts where many tech and telecoms businesses have operations.
"Unfortunately, the most responsible decision is to withdraw our participation from the event to safeguard our employees and customers," said a statement from British Telecom.
Other companies echoed this response. "If you're a CEO, your first duty is to your people," said the founder of Galway-based telecoms firm Rivada Telecom, Declan Ganley, who withdrew from the event.
"What's the reward for potentially putting them in harm's way?"
Ireland's biggest presence is due to be via Enterprise Ireland, which plans to host 12 Irish companies at its event stand.