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A hot potato: Mobile World Congress (MWC), the world’s largest mobile trade show, takes place in Barcelona this June, and it will be an in-person event. Organizer GSM Association says there will be several Covid-19 protections in place, but that hasn't alleviated concerns that having 50,000 attendees from around the world in the same place will lead to a superspreader incident.
MWC was one of the first major events to be canceled due to the coronavirus last February. GSMA had fought long and hard to keep the conference going, but with LG, Ericsson, Nvidia, Sony, Amazon, Intel, Vivo, and many other companies pulling out, it was left with little choice.
This year’s MWC, which is being held in June instead of the usual February date, will be an in-person event—assuming GSMA gets its way. CEO John Hoffman told Mobile World Live that holding these shows “gives people a bit of hope, says let’s move away from the effects of Covid-19 and return to something normal.”
Hoffman cites MWC Shanghai as an example to follow for the Barcelona-based event. The Chinese version, taking place next week, will see 20,000 people in attendance, down from the 60,000 it attracted in 2019.
Around 50,000 people are expected to attend MWC Barcelona, half the normal 100,000 visitors. There will be several Covid security measures in place, including social distancing, mandatory mask-wearing, regular disinfecting, and touchless registration/information points, among others. GSMA is also asking everyone attending to have a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their arrival, and testing will be available at the venue.
China has Covid-19 mostly under control, having rolled out vaccinations and testing at pace. Its daily cases are rarely above 30, while Spain, where vaccinations are progressing slowly, has a seven-day average of almost 7,000 cases.
Should GSMA get its wish and an in-person event does take place, there are fears it could cause a surge in cases much like CES 2020 led to an infection spike in Las Vegas.