(Reuters) - The Mobile World Congress organisers unveiled a health and safety plan on Monday that they said would enable the gathering to go ahead in Barcelona this summer after last year’s event was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest event on the telecoms industry circuit will feature a “check in to get in” concept limiting access to the venue to those with an up-to-date negative COVID-19 test, backed up by distancing and sanitation measures on site.
The organisers are working with local government, health authorities and tourism partners, such as restaurants and taxi firms, to minimise the risk of infection at one of the first big trade fairs to return to an “in person” format since the pandemic reached Europe a year ago.
“We think it’s time now to, with great responsibility, come back,” said Mats Granryd, director general of the GSMA, the industry association which hosts the congress.
“The industry needs to meet up physically and continue to do business,” he told Reuters in an interview, adding that close to 80 of the 100 top exhibitors had committed to taking part.
The GSMA, which counts 750 telecoms operators and 400 firms in the industry as its members, had to scratch last year’s event at the last minute after exhibitors pulled out en masse.
A SMALLER SHOW
The Mobile World Congress typically attracts more than 100,000 delegates, giving a $500 million boost to the economy in the Catalonian capital.
This year’s event, pushed back by four months from its usual slot, should be able to support around half that number of delegates after a similar “hybrid” event held in Shanghai last month that included an online programme.
“We’re taking all necessary precautions,” said Granryd, pointing to a regime that will require all attendees to provide proof of a negative test result to gain access to the Fira trade ground and to take new tests every 72 hours.
The number of entrances has been doubled to allow for one-way flow of human traffic, while admission will be “contactless” via an event app that visitors can download on their smartphones and will serve as a digital badge.
There will be no special treatment for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, Granryd said. The European Union has started work on a form of vaccination certificate that could ease travel but agreement is some way off.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Jane Merriman
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