The GSMA must act now to save its reputation – and MWC

Image credit | stevanovicigor

As if Deutsche Telekom, AT&T, Sprint and Nokia pulling out of MWC 2020 today was not enough, there is now a Spanish petition on pleading the event be cancelled.

The petition is addressed not to the GSMA but to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Energy, Tourism and Digital Agenda and three others including the office of the President of Catalonia.

It reads as follows (apologies for any translation errors):

We request that the Mobile World Congress, which is scheduled to take place in Barcelona at the end of February, be temporarily suspended in order to prevent the expansion of the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). According to WHO indications: “Countries should primarily seek to prevent the spread of people, avoid secondary transmission and international propagation”.
The large concentration of professionals from different countries, including the high number of visitors expected from the hot zone of the epidemic, could help spread this highly contagious virus throughout Europe. 
We consider it irresponsible to maintain the MWC when exceptional measures are being taken worldwide to try to stop this epidemic.
Please postpone the event until the situation regarding (2019-nCoV) is controlled. Show that for you the health of Europe is before the interests of a city, economic or political interests.

The pressure on the GSMA is becoming intense to say the least and no-one envies them their decision. However, with such giants pulling out and a public petition to the authorities gaining support from the Spanish people that MWC should be postponed or cancelled, the GSMA needs to react quickly. It will no longer look like a leader and an entity that puts the public good first if it does nothing.

We know that the GSMA is holding a board meeting on Friday to discuss this fast escalating crisis but, in our opinion (and obviously the opinion of many others) it needs to move faster than an announcement late on Friday (and probably after hours for many in the Asia Pacific region).

The decision is now – surely – inevitable. The GSMA needs to act decisively and immediately to avoid massive damage to its reputation. They stage the largest, most important event in the Mobile World – why put that at risk?

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