South Korea said on Sunday that it will start allowing a limited number of spectators into sports games as it seeks to return to normal after months of strict social distancing rules to fight the coronavirus. The country suffered one of the worst early epidemics of the disease outside of China, but appears to have largely controlled it through an extensive “tracing, testing and treatment” program without ever imposing a mandatory lockout.
Social distancing rules were relaxed in early May and some professional sports – including baseball and football – started new seasons, but behind closed doors.
“We will take phased measures, including allowing spectators to attend sporting events,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters on Sunday.
The South Korean sports ministry is scheduled to hold a meeting this week to discuss the details, Yonhap news agency reported, and the Korea Baseball Organization is preparing to occupy approximately 30% of the stands in its matches.
The move comes despite the alarm over a second wave of infections in recent weeks, with the South seeing around 35 to 50 new cases a day, mostly in the Seoul metropolitan area, where half the population lives.
Authorities reimposed some social distancing measures in late May following new clusters in and around Seoul, and most of the cases reported in the past week have been household infections.
Of the 62 new cases reported on Sunday – bringing the country’s total to 12,715 – 40 were domestic infections while 22 were people arriving from abroad.