Jamsil Baseball Stadium (Yonhap)
The South Korean professional baseball league decided on Monday to suspend its ongoing regular season, effectively immediately, following multiple cases of the novel coronavirus.
This marked South Korea's first professional sports league to halt proceedings because of COVID-19 cases.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) reached the decision after its emergency board meeting with CEOs of the league's 10 clubs at KBO's head office in Seoul.
In spring 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, volleyball and basketball leagues here slammed the brakes on their seasons before their scheduled conclusion, but it was preemptive action without any positive cases among athletes or officials.
Monday is the designated offday in the KBO. Teams were scheduled to return to action Tuesday.
The KBO will go on a Tokyo Olympic break from next Monday to Aug. 9. This means teams will miss one week of actual play because of the suspension.
There have been five reported cases of COVID-19 involving two clubs, the NC Dinos and the Doosan Bears, since Friday, causing multiple games to be canceled over the weekend.
The KBO first canceled two games on Thursday, after a guest at a Seoul hotel used by the Dinos and the Hanwha Eagles during their road trips tested positive for COVID-19.
All players, coaches and staff of the two clubs underwent tests, and results for two members of the Dinos came back positive on Friday. The game between the Dinos and the Kiwoom Heroes was canceled that day, as was another game between the LG Twins and the Bears, since the Bears had played the Dinos earlier in the week and had to be tested.
Another player from the Dinos and two members of the Bears joined the infirmary list on Saturday. Two games involving these clubs, and a third game involving the Kia Tigers, which had played the Bears on the previous weekend, were canceled that day.
And with the Dinos and the Bears still in isolation, their games for Sunday were also wiped out.
Under its health and safety protocols, the KBO can't unilaterally suspend the season based on a relatively small number
of COVID-19 cases. The league allows teams with infected players to add replacements without dropping other active players to make room for them.
But in case of a massive outbreak, the league can call a meeting with club representatives and discuss possibly putting the season on hold.
Under heightened social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area, KBO clubs in the affected cities were scheduled to begin playing home games without fans starting Tuesday.
The no-crowd rule applies to: the Bears, the Twins and the Heroes in Seoul, the SSG Landers in Incheon, the KT Wiz in Suwon. (Yonhap)