Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League want teams to focus on making sure players and staff members don’t become infected with COVID-19 so as not to become a burden on the local medical system in the cities where their teams will be holding training camps this spring.
During the latest meeting of the NPB-J. League task force, both NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito and J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said they’re hoping to not cause trouble as their teams train in locales far from their usual homes.
Saito, during an online news conference after the meeting, said the hundreds of people — including players and staffers — traveling to the camp sites, the majority of which are located in Miyazaki and Okinawa prefectures, should do so with a sense of urgency.
“What’s important is that while each player and staff member needs to be careful, the clubs need to stay in close contact with local governments,” Saito said.
Several J. League clubs have already kicked off their training camps while NPB teams are scheduled to begin Feb. 1. No fans will be allowed at the sites for practices or games at least until the state of emergency is lifted.
The task force’s medical panel has given each league the green light to proceed after preparing a list of protocols and countermeasures that need to be in place.
Mitsuo Kaku, who heads the medical panel, stressed that the leagues need to make sure each player and staff member is monitored constantly and that each person reports their physical condition on a daily basis.
“We’ve seen new data from America this month that nearly 60% get infected from people who are asymptomatic,” Kaku said. “We need to be aware of that and make sure to prepare proper countermeasures, while recognizing you could be infected by someone who’s asymptomatic.”
Kaku added that teams should be able to avoid clusters by having players and staffers undergo PCR tests “on a frequency of about once a week.”
When asked about criteria that could lead to a team shutting down its training camp, task force members said those details need to be discussed further as they move forward.
“We’ve got to make sure the teams won’t have cluster infections so that they won’t put pressure on the medical system of the local cities,” said Kazuhiro Tateda, a medical panel member. “But if one puts the local municipality of its camp site in trouble, I personally think that it might need to call its camp off.”
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