South Korea to allow limited number of fans at sports games

AFP , Sunday 28 Jun 2020

South Korea said Sunday it will begin allowing limited numbers of spectators at sports games as it seeks to return to normal after months of strict social distancing rules to combat the coronavirus.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside China but appears to have brought it broadly under control with an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme while never imposing a compulsory lockdown.

Social distancing rules were relaxed in early May and some professional sports -- including baseball and soccer -- started new seasons albeit behind closed doors.

"We will take phased measures including allowing spectators at sports events," health minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters Sunday, without elaborating.

South Korea's sports ministry is expected to hold a meeting this week to discuss the details, Yonhap news agency reported, and the Korea Baseball Organisation is preparing to fill around 30 percent of stands at its games.

The move comes despite 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 of the population lives.

Officials reimposed some social distancing measures in late May following fresh clusters in and near Seoul, and most cases reported in the past week have been domestic infections.

Of 62 new cases reported on Sunday -- taking the country's total to 12,715 -- 40 were domestic infections while 22 were people arriving from overseas.

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