Japanese pro-baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito (left) and J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai take on Monday, March, at a press conference in a hotel in Tokyo part 2, 2020. The opening of the regular season of Japanese professional baseball is doubtful about the outbreak of the new virus, they said on Monday when the country's baseball and soccer leagues appointed three medical experts as advisors. (Ren Onuma / Kyodo News via AP)
TOKYO – The opening of the Japanese baseball season is doubtful because of the outbreak of the new virus, officials said on Monday when the country's baseball and soccer leagues appointed three medical experts as advisors.
Baseball Commissioner Atsushi Saito said protecting fans, players and coaches is crucial. Pre-season games are played in empty stadiums, with the hope that the regular season can begin on March 20 as scheduled.
However, Saito admitted that it is a delicate decision to assess whether the regular season can begin – and with or without fans – and noted that the virus outbreak should not be over soon.
"This is the difficult part," said Saito. "At the moment we cannot say which measures we will take under which conditions."
The J-League football competition, together with Nippon Professional Baseball, formed the body responsible for evaluating the virus outbreak. The panel, which will operate through Tuesday, will include representatives from each of the 12 professional baseball clubs as well as representatives from the J-League. There will be recommendations by the middle of this month, officials said.
The J-League had started, but the game had ended. It hopes to resume on March 18.
Mitsuru Murai, chairman of the J-League, said that games attract crowds and unexpected problems.
"We have to recognize that we have a responsibility for human health," said Murai.
Reporters at the press conference had to wear masks, although Saito and Murai did not wear masks. They also shook hands afterwards.
The Japanese government has stated that it sees the next few weeks as key to curbing the spread of COVID-19, which started in China at the end of last year.
The virus has made more than 89,000 people sick worldwide, mainly in China, but also in Italy, Iran and South Korea. Japan has around a dozen deaths and around 1,000 cases, including people on a cruise ship that has docked in a port city near Tokyo.
Events in Japan were canceled in droves. Amusement parks, concerts, festivals and other places that attract many visitors, including Tokyo Disneyland, have closed. Schools across the country were also asked to close early for the spring vacation. Concern is growing as to whether the Tokyo Olympics can continue on schedule.
More information on the new type of corona virus can be found here.
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