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Two weeks out from one of the world’s largest tech shows, the GSMA has issued some sweeping safeguards over growing concerns around the coronavirus for its upcoming event, Mobile World Congress. After a number of high profile back-outs, including ZTE, LG, NVIDIA, Ericsson, and most recently Amazon, the company issued a new list, including a ban of visitors originating from the Hubei province, whose capital Wuhan is believed to be the origin of the epidemic.

In an update this morning, John Hoffman, CEO of GSMA, has confirmed that the company anticipates as many as 5000 to 6000 fewer attendees from mainland China alone, not to mention the large companies outside China who have cancelled their MWC plans entirely.

In addition to all of the health and safety measures put in place, the Spanish health authorities, Host City Partners, other relevant agencies and the GSMA are collaborating. GSMA has moved to assure attendees – media included – that adequate precautions have been taken to keep everyone safe. In particular:

  • All travelers from the Hubei province will not be permitted access to the event
  • All travelers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
  • Temperature screening will be implemented
  • Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

While further planning is underway, the situation is being closely monitored. The following health and safety measures will also be implemented at the event:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfection programme across all high-volume touchpoints, e.g. catering areas, surfaces, handrails, WCs, entrances/exits, public touch-screens, etc. along with the use of correct cleaning/sanitizing materials and products
  • Increased onsite medical support – doubled over last year
  • Awareness campaign via online and onsite info-share and signage
  • Availability of sanitizing and disinfection materials for public use
  • Awareness and training to all staff on standard personal preventative measures, e.g. personal hygiene, frequency of use of sanitizing/disinfection products, etc.
  • Advice to exhibitors on implementing effective cleaning and disinfection of stands, offices along with guidance on personal hygiene measures and common preventive behavior
  • Public health guidelines and advice communication to Barcelona hotels, public and private transport, restaurants and catering outlets, retail, etc.
  • Installing new signage onsite reminding attendees of hygiene recommendations
  • Implementing a microphone disinfecting and change protocol for all speakers
  • Communicating advice to all attendees to adopt a ‘no-handshake policy’
  • A 24-hour telephone Security and Medical service for all attendees, operational from 12th to 29th February 2020. This number appears on the back of badge holders, in the event App and on signage around the venue.

In a press conference, Spanish Health Minister Alba Vergés explained that the region of Catalonia is not a public health risk zone. The Health Minister stated “The Catalan health system is prepared to detect and treat coronavirus, to give the most appropriate response, and this must be clear to those attending MWC Barcelona,” said Vergés.

In a similar vein, the Secretary of Public Health, Joan Guix, noted that Catalonia is used to continually welcoming thousands of visitors to the region and reiterated his confidence in the region's readiness and responsiveness. Guix outlined the measures that the Public Health Agency of Catalonia had put in place and that the Spanish Ministry of Health was in constant communication with all relevant bodies. These include the Directorate General of Tourism and Hotels, both public and private health centres, the Chinese consulate and the GSMA.

The head of the Service of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Antoni Trilla, emphasized that “we are not in an exceptional situation and our health system is ready”.

The GSMA sends their sympathy to those affected, and strongly urges exhibitors and attendees to implement appropriate guidelines and protocols as suggested by the WHO and other health authorities to contain and prevent any further spread of the virus. Finally, Hoffman reiterates that the health and safety of exhibitors, attendees and staff are of paramount importance.

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