Nippon Professional Baseball and the J. League may use on-site novel coronavirus testing as a way to help each league to remain on schedule as much as possible, the associations said Monday after a meeting of their joint COVID-19 task force.
A J. League contest between Gamba Osaka and Nagoya Grampus was postponed two hours before kickoff last week after four Gamba players and a staff member tested positive for the virus.
The task force is considering on-site testing since going through health centers to identify positive cases and close contacts takes time — an issue that could be resolved by installing the same testing system in stadiums.
“The main theme in our meeting today was how to make the appropriate decision regarding whether we can safely go ahead with games as the kickoff times get closer,” J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said during an online news conference after the meeting.
Hiroshige Mikamo, a member of the medical panel for the task force, said he understood the “need to discuss the possibility of introducing on-site testing.
“The pace of new infections has slowed down, yet the state of emergency is still in place (in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures),” he said, adding that “there are times when health centers can’t determine who is affected by the virus in time (for the start of a game).”
Further details, including which testing systems would be used, will be discussed at a later date. NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito said his league would base its decision on the precision and cost of each on-site system.
The members of the task force say there is no perfect testing system, and that there have been cases of false positives, but that on-site testing would help reassure players to a certain extent.
“When you play a game, of course you have your opponents, and it’s important to allow everyone to play with a sense of security,” Mikamo said. “When you’re feeling anxious, you can’t give your best performance. It would also help (the leagues) better explain to the public why the games are going ahead.”
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