Despite a couple of big-name cancellations as the novel coronavirus sparks global pandemic fears, Mobile World Congress is set to go ahead on later this month.

Organiser the GSMA has issued a statement regarding specific interventions that will minimise any risks for exhibitors and visitors due to arrive in Barcelona in the next couple of weeks.

Three major exhibitors, LG, Ericsson and Sony, have already cancelled their attendance at the industry show, citing concerns over the virus.

“The GSMA knows that the Coronavirus has created disruption, in particular for exhibitors and attendees from around the world, including the 5 000 to 6 000 (5% to 6% of the total) who have historically attended from China,” the organiser says in a statement. “Our sympathy goes to all those affected.

“We are grateful for the preventative measures our Chinese exhibitors have put in place, notably ZTE and Huawei.”

The GSMA confirms that it is moving ahead as planned, and will host MWC Barcelona 24-27 February 2020.

“While the GSMA confirm some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps, we remain more than 2 800 exhibitors strong.”

A number of health and safety measures have been put in place, and the GSMA is also collaborating with Spanish health authorities, host city partners, and other relevant agencies.

For exhibitors and visitors to the event, a number of measures have put in place, including:

* No travellers from the Hubei province will be permitted access to the event;

* All travellers 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; and

* Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

While further planning is underway, we will continue to monitor the situation and will adapt our plans according to developments and advice we receive. We are contending with a constantly evolving situation, that will require fast adaptability.

Other measures being implemented include:

* Increased cleaning and disinfection programme across all high-volume touchpoints, for example catering areas, surfaces, handrails, WCs, entrances/exits, public touch-screens, etc along with the use of correct cleaning/sanitising materials and products;

* Increased onsite medical support – doubled over last year;

* Awareness campaign via online and onsite info-share and signage;

* Availability of sanitising 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 sanitising/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 behaviour;

* 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; and

* Communicating advice to all attendees to adopt a ‘no-handshake policy’.

A 24-hour telephone Security and Medical service for all attendees will operate 12 to 29 February 2020, with the number appearing on the back of badge holders, in the event app and on signage around the venue.

Meanwhile, the Catalan Ministry of Health has sent a message of calm regarding the virus and the MWC.

Alba Vergés says a number of health preparedness measures that have been established in co-ordination with the GSMA.

She adds that Catalonia is not a risk zone for public health and there have not been any coronavirus cases in Catalonia so far.

“The health system of Catalonia is prepared to diagnose and treat novel coronavirus, in perfect shape to give the most appropriate response, Vergés says. “This must be taken into account by catalan citizens and by all visitors coming to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in the upcoming days.”

The Catalan Secretary of Public Health, Dr Joan Guix, reminds delegates that Catalonia is very used to receiving and hosting thousands of people.

“We have always successfully performed prevention and control measures, thanks to our preparedness and response capacities. We will provide the maximum amount of information and ensure transparency.”

Dr Antoni Trilla, head of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology Department at Hospital Clínic Barcelona, emphasises that “our health system is prepared but we are not in an exceptional situation”.

The GSMA urges exhibitors and attendees to implement appropriate guidelines and protocols as suggested by the WHO and other health authorities to contain and mitigate against any further spread of the virus.