Amid the unprecedented outbreak of deadly coronavirus, the California-based American social media company, Facebook has cancelled its biggest annual event, the F8 Developer Conference. This gathering in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose had been set for early May and is known to draw thousands of software developers from around the world who collaborate with Facebook. The tech giant said in a statement that it was a “difficult decision” made due to the “growing concerns around COVID-19”.
According to Facebook, by cancelling the event, it was prioritizing the health and safety of its partners, employees, and other officials who contribute to organise the F8 event. Moreover, the face-to-face interaction at the conference centre in San Jose will reportedly be replaced with online presentations which will be live-streamed. Usually, the F8 sessions and the demonstrations span its “family” of offerings including Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and its virtual reality unit, Oculus.
The company's director of platform partnerships, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis said in a message that it was “tough call to make” and added that F8 is an “incredibly important event” for the tech giant. According to Papamiltiadis, it is also their “favourite ways” to celebrate the people around the world. The official said that the organisers tried to explore several other ways to keep the event intact. It was important for them to host an inclusive event, however, it was not possible without international developers in attendance.
With businesses and companies either shutting down stores or cancelling their major events to contain the spread of the fatal virus, it has already reached at least 50 countries with Antarctica being the only continent left 'virus-free'. The WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has also said that the officials “should not be too eager to declare a pandemic” in the absence of “clear-minded analysis of the facts”. However, the UN health agency has still declared its highest level of alarm which is a public health emergency of international concern. Using the word 'pandemic' could give a signal that the coronavirus can no longer be contained, but Ghebreyesus said that it “is not true”.
According to the official website, Ghebreyesus explained, “Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have a significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems”.
However, he later added that the organisation will not “hesitate” in declaring the outbreak a pandemic if “it is an accurate description of the situation”. The UN health agency is closely monitoring the epidemic.