The Pokémon Company has released an updated version of its COVID-19 protocols that govern public events such as tournaments and festivals for its popular trading card game. Key among the changes are the omission of any vaccine requirements to attend large public events, including the upcoming Pokémon World Champions 2022 in London.
The new guidelines were published on June 28th by the Play! Pokémon organisation, which handles all live competitive league events for the Pokémon TCG as well as video games. The four-page document briefly explains the different requirements for local and premier play, the latter of which encompasses most championships at or above to regional level. Premier events will enforce a mask policy on all attendees unless eating inside a designated area, and social distancing and hygiene practices remain in place - including not shaking hands with opponents after a match.
Notable missing, though, is any for of vaccine requirement or showing proof-of-vaccination in order to enter the ExCeL London exhibition centre where the world championships will take place. The Pokémon Company’s explanation for this change largely hinges on the fact that an increasing number of regional, state and national governments have relaxed their COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
“While we strongly recommend that all attendees, volunteers, and organizers continue to follow the protocols issued by appropriate health agencies with regards to vaccinations, a number of factors, including increasing vaccination rates and changes to local laws, have led us to making this change,” the document reads. “The safety and well-being of our community remains our top priority. Venue engineering requirements, masking, social distancing, and hand/surface sanitation will remain in place as part of our efforts to prevent COVID-19 spread during our events.”
Many event or public gathering-based businesses have taken advantage of the global relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions as a convenient cover for their own ‘return to normalcy’, referring back to legal frameworks when questioned on the decision. This doesn’t always work out, as Star City Games found out after dropping their own vaccine mandate for the recent CommandFest Richmond, but an increasing number of conventions, tournaments and festivals are ramping back up despite the fact that COVID-19 and its variants continue to spread in most nations around the world.
The UK government identified two new Omicron “variants of concern”, deemed BA.4 and BA.5 on May 6th. The two quickly became dominant in the UK and the US - along with other countries - and have prompted health officials to recommend a coronavirus booster vaccine for adults before the end of the year.