Omicron threatens tech's big return to in-person megaconference

Washington (AFP) – Multiple major companies have announced they will cancel or limit their attendance to the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) -- the tech industry's annual mass-gathering in Las Vegas -- due to Covid-19 variant Omicron's rapid spread.


The popular four-day conference, which had planned for a grand return in 2022 with in-person attendance, is still scheduled to start on January 5, with the press getting early access two days beforehand.

But on Tuesday, a number of major tech firms such as Meta (the parent company of Facebook), Amazon, T-Mobile, and Twitter canceled their appearances.

Key technology trade publications, notably CNET, The Verge, and TechCrunch also announced they will no longer send reporters to cover the event, adding to the growing suspicion that the event will have to be delayed or canceled.

"After careful consideration and discussion, T-Mobile has made the difficult decision to significantly limit our in-person participation at this year's Consumer Electronics Show," announced the telecom company in a press release, adding that its CEO, Mike Sievert, will also cancel his keynote address.

"While we are confident that CES organizers are taking exhaustive measures to protect in-person attendees," they noted, "we are prioritizing the safety of our team and other attendees with this decision."

Representatives for the auto company General Motors, which had planned to reveal a new electric model of the Chevrolet Silverado, could not immediately be reached to confirm whether their CEO, Mary Barra, still planned to attend CES in person.

On its site, CES reminds attendees that they "MUST be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to pick up a badge and access CES in-person in Las Vegas."

Conference organizers also recommend attendees get a "test for COVID-19 prior to departing for Las Vegas and within 24 hours of entering a CES venue."

Another major conference planned for January, the World Economic Forum (WEF), announced on Monday that it would delay its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, due to the Omicron variant.

The international gathering of the world's political and business elite will go ahead in "early summer," according to organizers.

In January 2021, both CES and the WEF were held entirely online.