General

Task force, panel unveil guidelines for coping with COVID-19 crisis

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

While the COVID-19 outbreak has greatly impacted sports leagues in Japan, the joint task force formed by Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League and its medical panel introduced proposals to help the leagues and their fans properly cope with the virus.

The objective of the documents is to educate athletes, teams and fans about how to avoid catching an infection from the virus and also lower the risk of spreading it by adapting countermeasures.

The proposals, which were released to the public on Thursday, state that it is important for athletes, coaches and staff “to have courage” to rest when they recognize they have fever, coughs and physical fatigue, and for fans to not come to stadiums when they feel the same symptoms.

For athletes and team personnel, the documents recommend that they monitor their health conditions by routinely checking their body temperature and recording their daily activities. Other tips: be aware about the sanitary conditions in shared spaces like locker rooms, shower rooms and benches.

The proposals advise that if an athlete or a team staff member tests positive for the coronavirus, the person and others in close contact with him or her will be required to be hospitalized or stay home.

NPB has indefinitely delayed the start of the season, and the J. League has extended the suspension for the restart of its season.

According to the proposals, fans would also be asked to refrain from performing some of their customary cheering, such as playing trumpets, blowing whistles and launching rubber balloons into the air.

Meanwhile, at the task force’s previous news conference on Monday, the panel said that the basic reproduction number, which is considered an indicator of the contagiousness of infectious and parasitic agents, could be taken into account when deciding whether the leagues should host games.

But on Thursday, Hiroshige Mikamo, an Aichi Medical University professor who is on the panel, stressed that the figure would be one of the criteria and the task force should make decisions “looking at situations comprehensively.”

Mitsuo Kaku, who leads the panel, insisted that it is “impossible” to completely eliminate the risk of infections with viruses like COVID-19 in general.

“While this could be a long stretch of battle (with the virus), it’s important how we’ll lower the risks,” said Kaku, who usually serves as a specially appointed professor at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University. “And we’ll need to consider how we can lower the risks, looking at realistic situations.”

As the experts panel continues working with the task force, five more medical experts have been added to the panel as “regional advisers” so that they can provide additional perspectives and suggestions to the teams that are located nationwide.

Kaku said that proposals could made for other sports leagues and events in Japan, noting they can also be helpful for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

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