MWC will have (reduced) in-person attendance in June 2021, but it’s still a bad idea


It was about this time last year that companies were pulling out of Mobile World Congress (MWC), the largest event in the smartphone industry. The cancellations, coming amid the growing threat that is COVID-19, culminated in the event being cancelled outright. That’s not happening this year.

Moving MWC

Instead, Mobile World Congress is being shifted around. MWC Shanghai will take place this month, as an in-person event, followed by Mobile World proper, from 28 June to 1 July this year. And it’s an awful idea.

GSMA Limited CEO John Hoffman, speaking to Mobile World Live, explained a little about what attendees can expect from Mobile World in 2021 but, mostly, it sounds like the event is packing large numbers of people into common areas. Basically, everything you’re not supposed to be doing.

MWC Shanghai is expected to have some 20,000 attendees — considerably down from about 60,000 in 2019, the last time the event took place, but still far too many to have in one location. The full-sized event is expected to have between 40,000 and 50,000 people attending live in Barcelona — down from 110,000 in 2019 — but, again, that’s a silly number of people to cram into a common space. Especially when they’re coming from all over the world and then heading back home.

Preventative medicine

To be fair, the event is taking steps to make sure it’s as safe as possible. Attendees will need to present a negative COVID test result that isn’t older than 72 hours, there will be on-site testing, and the company’s also hoping to create a “touchless environment” when it comes to checking in and actually attending MWC in Barcelona. “Crowd density” will be controlled and measures are being taken everywhere to ensure as sterile an environment as possible.

Hoffman said “Our view is it would be great if the world was vaccinated, but we can’t rely on that in 2021 so instead we’re relying on testing upfront to ensure our bubble isn’t just the Fira Gran Via but the whole of Barcelona.”

Even so, an in-person MWC is a risky aim. Monitoring more than 40,000 people in a city the size of Barcelona is impossible, particularly this late in the pandemic when people everywhere are being overly lax. It’ll only take a handful of people, infected outside of the event itself, to spread a new wave of COVID-19 back to their home countries. Currently, Spain sees 12,000 new cases and 400 deaths a day. These numbers may improve by the time MWC rolls around but those figures still represent a substantial risk.

Source: Mobile World Live


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