Facebook cancelled its annual F8 Developer Conference due to fears about the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, outlining plans to hold a series of smaller local and online events instead.

The conference, a key part of Facebook’s calendar where it typically unveils new features for its suite of apps and services and sets course for the year ahead, was set to be held on 5 and 6 May in San Jose, California. The company told Mobile World Live the 2019 event drew a crowd of around 5,000.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of platform partnerships, said in a blog the decision to ditch the event was a “tough call,” but insisted “we need to prioritise 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.”

Papamiltiadis said the main gathering will be replaced by a combination of smaller, locally-hosted events along with “videos and live streamed content”. Additional details about these will be released in the coming weeks.

The move follows the cancellation of MWC Barcelona 2020 earlier this month, and comes as companies across the globe brace for expected headwinds caused by the virus.

Covid-19 was already tipped to slow 5G deployments in China, and both Apple and Microsoft warned they expect to miss revenue targets for the current quarter due to related supply chain issues.