Fans wearing face masks cheer as SoftBank Hawks' Nobuhiro Matsuda, center. AP
Japanese baseball and soccer want government approval to let more fans into their stadiums now that the COVID-19 infection rate is trending downward, the heads of the leagues said Tuesday.
Nippon Professional Baseball and the soccer J-League are asking the government to allow a maximum of 20,000 fans or up to 50% capacity - whichever number is smaller.
The government could review the proposal as early as Friday and reports in Japan say it is likely to be approved.
"At this point, we have no choice but to live with the coronavirus,” NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito said in an online press conference.
Saito said it’s "important for us to strike a balance” between economic activities and infection-control measures.
Following government guidelines, both leagues have been allowing up to 5,000 fans or 50% of capacity - whichever number is smaller. They had hoped to expand attendance in August but were stalled after a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"Our feeling is that it’s more of a gradual process rather than a sudden, major expansion,” J-League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said. "By doing so, we will be able to welcome more supporters to the stadiums and provide a safe and secure environment for them."
Japan reported 293 cases on Monday, continuing a recent downward trend. The country has reported about 1,350 deaths from the coronavirus.
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