Taipei – As coronavirus cases dwindle in Taiwan, baseball fans will be allowed back into stadiums on Friday evening, though with a cap on numbers.
Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center agreed on Wednesday that starting Friday, the Chinese Professional Baseball League could admit up to 1,000 fans per game. The four-team league has played in empty stadiums since the beginning of the season on April 12.
"If all goes well, we'll gradually increase it to 2,000 to 2,500 per game," Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung told Kyodo News.
The CPBL was the first professional baseball league in the world to start the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning at 6:35 p.m. local time, the Rakuten Monkeys will face the Chinatrust Brothers in Greater Taichung, central Taiwan, and the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions will take on the Fubon Guardians in New Taipei.
Priority ticket access for the games was given to season ticket holders and club members.
Spectators will be required to follow stringent measures in compliance with the health ministry's recommendations for mass gatherings of more than 500 people outdoors.
Fans must have their temperature checked at the gate, wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing at the games.
Testing is not required for players, but if there is one confirmed case in the league the entire season will be put on hold. Players have been advised to cut down on taking holidays or going on outings.
"We're taking one step at a time," league commissioner John Wu told Kyodo News.
Taiwan's baseball league, which had been filling stands with robot mannequins and cardboard cut-outs so far this season, has attracted attention as organized sports worldwide cancel or delay competition.
Major League Baseball in the United States canceled its spring training and postponed the start of the season. Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball first pushed the March 20 season opener to April 10, then April 24, and now NPB has no target date.
Sports broadcaster Eleven Sports Taiwan brought live Taiwanese baseball to fans globally, streaming the Rakuten Monkeys' home games on its Twitter account with English commentary.
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