Baseball fans will be let back into Taiwanese stadiums this week as the government begins relaxing some controls implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Taiwan has been relatively successful at controlling the virus, with 439 cases to date and six deaths, and 100 active infections, thanks to early prevention and detection efforts. The island has never gone into total lockdown, though the government has promoted social distancing and face masks. Both the baseball and football seasons got under way in Taiwan last month, but without spectators, providing rare live action for fans at home at a time when the pandemic has shut down most professional sport around the globe.
The health minister, Chen Shih-chung, told reporters that 1,000 spectators would be allowed in to baseball matches on Friday in Taipei and the central city of Taichung. “Starting from the eighth, fans will be allowed in for professional baseball games,” said Chen.
Taiwan’s baseball league said in a separate statement that it will sell tickets on a “real name” basis with designated seats, meaning authorities can more easily trace people if there are any infections linked back to attending the matches. Fans will be required to undergo temperature checks and wear face masks, and seats will be kept one metre apart, it said.
“Wear your mask properly and show our unity and discipline. Let the world see the pride of Taiwan,” the league wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding it will be the world’s first professional baseball league to allow audiences back in.
Baseball is wildly popular in Taiwan, thanks to a strong cultural influence from Japan and the United States. To meet global appetite for any sports events at a time when many other countries have been locked down, baseball games in Taiwan have been providing English-language commentary and have attracted rare attention from foreign fans and media.
However, it has not all been smooth sailing, and there has been controversy in Taiwan about the name of the baseball league, called the Chinese Professional Baseball League, after several overseas sports commentators confused the island with China. Some Taiwanese politicians have pushed for the league to be renamed, something it has rejected.