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UPDATE 1-Deutsche Telekom says it won't attend Mobile World Congress

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BERLIN, May 31 (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom will not attend the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in a month’s time because of continuing health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic, it said on Monday, joining other leading companies who have pulled out.

The withdrawal deals a fresh blow to the GSMA industry association that hosts the event, which was cancelled last year at the last minute while this year’s edition was pushed back to the end of June to maximise its chances of happening.

“At the present time, we still do not believe it is justifiable to take this risk for a large number of our employees,” the Bonn-based group said in a statement issued to Reuters.

Deutsche Telekom becomes the first major network operator to pull out of this year’s get together, following network equipment makers Nokia and Ericsson and smartphone maker Samsung.

GSMA - which represents more than 750 telecoms operators worldwide - said on May 20 the industry’s biggest annual gathering could go ahead as planned after the Spanish authorities approved its health and safety plan.

The lobby group, which laid off more than 40% of its staff after last year’s show was cancelled, can ill afford another washout. In normal years, the show attracts more than 100,000 visitors and delivers a boost to the local economy.

Deutsche Telekom said instead of attending, it would organise an online event at which it would showcase its latest technology. The Telekom Tech Grounds event will be held on June 28-29.

Orange, the leading French network operator, said it still planned to attend the Mobile World Congress. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine, Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain Editing by Riham Alkousaa and David Evans)

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