Apex Legends pros traveling to Stockholm later this month might want to practice their hand washing skills and double up on masks when they fly. As pandemic rules relax worldwide, EA is sticking with a strict coronavirus policy at the upcoming ALGS LAN, conducting daily testing on players and prohibiting anyone who tests positive from playing.
Though the $1 million tournament will not require COVID-19 vaccination for its participants, an EA spokesperson told Dot Esports it is “highly encouraged” and that a strict testing requirement will be implemented during the three-day competition. Everyone attending the event will be tested daily. Any players who test positive for COVID-19 won’t be able to compete, a marked contrast from VALORANT’s pro circuit where alternate arrangements have been made for players who tested positive at events. Apex teams in Stockholm are instead allowed to use a substitute player if someone on the starting roster tests positive.
These testing protocols might have a big impact on the event. Even if competitors religiously follow all health and safety recommendations on their way to Stockholm, they’ll be doing so at a time when the broad restrictions on travel in place during the pandemic are loosening or ending entirely, and many people are throwing caution to the wind.
As of April 1, Sweden lifted all its entry regulations regarding COVID-19, allowing travelers to freely enter the country with no testing or vaccine requirements. A mask mandate for travelers on public transportation in the U.S. was struck down in federal court on April 18. Major domestic airlines immediately dropped mask requirements. Many of the international airlines that serve Stockholm no longer require masks, either. Apex pros traveling to the event now face a gauntlet of potential infection that could make them miss their chance at the game’s return to in-person competition after nearly three years away.
Once in attendance, players face additional risks. Masks are required at the competition venue but not “while on camera during the competition’s broadcast,” which will take place over hours each day. There will be no audience, a decision made to reduce the risk of disease. But indoor gatherings, no matter how tightly controlled, will provide opportunities for the highly transmissible Omicron variant to spread. Omicron currently makes up almost all of the reported cases in Sweden. “There is no ‘zero risk’ when it comes to any kind of gathering,” according to WHO guidelines on small public gatherings, suggesting they should be kept short, small, and outdoors—none of which is possible at an indoor venue with many hours of play each day and well over 100 players, not counting any substitutes or staff.
There may also be a significant number of unvaccinated players in attendance. Cloud9’s Paris “StayNaughty” Gouzoulis said he wouldn’t get the vaccine during a recent stream and claimed that other players on top teams from North America would be unvaccinated at the tournament. If that’s the case, it’s far more likely that any potential outbreak of the virus at the event would cause significant disruption, forcing some of the best players in the world to sit out the largest tournament in Apex esports to date.
The Stockholm LAN is set to take place from April 29 to May 1.