• Kyodo, Reuters

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The Japan Sumo Association (JSA) said Thursday that 18 wrestlers from the Tamanoi stable had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, resulting in the entire stable sitting out the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament starting this weekend.

Sumo elder Shibatayama, the JSA’s director of communications, assured fans, however, that the 15-day tournament starting Sunday at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo would go ahead as scheduled in spite of the outbreak.

One wrestler from the Tamanoi stable had already tested positive on Saturday, bringing the total infected to 19. The JSA said all 28 members of the stable, including its stablemaster and former ozeki Tochiazuma, would skip the Autumn meet to prevent the spread of the virus.

The JSA added that 12 of those infected had been hospitalized but with only mild symptoms.

The organization plans to let some 2,500 fans attend each day during the upcoming two-week tournament at the venue, which has a capacity of 11,000.

It has put in place several infection prevention measures, such as banning wrestlers from visiting other stables for training, that had largely been effective throughout the July Grand Sumo Tournament, which was held in Tokyo in front of a limited audience.

In April, several members of the Takadagawa stable, including its stablemaster — a former sekiwake known then as Akinoshima — and second-division grappler Hakuyozan, tested positive for the virus.

In May, 28-year-old Shobushi from the fourth-tier sandanme division died due to multiple organ failure caused by the virus. The wrestler was the first sumo wrestler to test positive for the virus in early April.

The JSA decided to hold this year’s March grand tournament in Osaka behind closed doors, and canceled the May tournament amid a nationwide state of emergency amid the spread of the virus.

The association allowed up to 2,500 spectators to attend the July Grand Sumo Tournament each day, asking them to wear masks and refrain from cheering.

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