shopify unite conference

A major tech conference was just cancelled in Toronto over coronavirus fears

Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify is pulling the plug on its annual developer and partner conference this year over concerns around the global coronavirus outbreak.

The publicly-traded tech company had been scheduled to host its third consecutive Unite conference at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto from May 6-8 of 2020.

Shopify CTO Jean-Michel Lemieux announced in a blog post on Friday that the conference, which is said to have attracted thousands of attendees in the past two years, would need to "take on a new form" due to "evolving public health concerns around COVID-19."

"We've made the hard but necessary decision to cancel the in-person element of Unite 2020," Lemieux wrote on the company's website.

"We know this decision impacts you and everyone in our global ecosystem, but the health and safety of our partners and employees is our greatest concern," he continued. "We're not willing to put anyone at risk by proceeding with our in-person events."

The company is now exploring "virtual ways" of "exploring the future of commerce together" and says it will provide additional updates in the coming weeks.

All current ticket holders for the event will be refunded and are being encouraged by Shopify to "reconsider any travel and accommodations you've booked."

Shopify isn't the first big company to cancel a major event in light of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Facebook announced similarly on Thursday that it would be cancelling the "in-person component" of its annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, to protect the health and safety of its partners.

"Out of concerns around COVID-19, we're cancelling the in-person component of F8, but we look forward to connecting with our developer partners through local events, video and live streamed content," said Facebook's director of developer platforms, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, in a statement. 

The organization behind the Mobile World Congress — a massive trade show that usually attracts more than 100,000 people — announced over two weeks ago that MWC 2020 in Barcelona would be cancelled due to "global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak."

The annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco hasn't yet been cancelled, but major exhibitors such as Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts, Epic and Unity have already pulled out of the event

While the World Health Organization currently rates the global risk level for COVID-19 as "high," Toronto Public Health maintains that the general risk to members of the public is low.

Four active cases of the coronavirus are currently being treated in Ontario, while an additional 739 tests across the province have come back negative. Another three patients have recovered.

As of February 28, at least 2,747 people had died as a result of contracting the coronavirus within China. Another 57 people have died across 46 other countries around the globe, according to the WHO.

The Canadian government is still warning citizens to avoid avoid all travel to the province of Hubei, where the city of Wuhan remains in quarantine with more than 11 million residents on lockdown.

Lead photo by

Shopify Partners

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