Sports fans are likely looking forward to a couple of dates later this month. Major League Baseball is scheduled to open its season in two weeks — while the National Basketball Association plans to get underway a week later.
But in Asia, sports are adding a component the U.S. won't have: fans in the stands.
Baseball season has been underway for Japanese big leaguers for nearly three weeks. But for fans, the games have been limited to television.
That’s about to change, and not only for baseball.
Starting on Friday, fans can attend live games of Nippon Professional Baseball and the J-League — Japan’s professional soccer league. There are limits in line with broader government guidance about public gatherings.
Crowds will be limited to 5,000 for now. Plans to increase the crowd size depend on the pace of infections around the country.
In South Korea, plans to allow baseball fans back in the stands include temperature checks, facemasks, distancing, no alcohol, and no food in the seats.
Taiwan has been the pioneer in this area — allowing up to a thousand fans in for games back in May. Last month, stadiums were allowed to be at half their capacity, and fans no longer have to wear facemasks while in their seats.
But Taiwan has also been a leader in containing COVID-19.
Japan has had a little more than 20,000 cases, South Korea a little more than 13,000. Taiwan has had with fewer than 450 cases and 7 deaths in a population of 23 million.