As Japan continues to deal with the global coronavirus outbreak, officials have postponed the start of the country’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
The news comes after the league’s 12 teams carried out their preseason games with no fans in attendance over fears of the virus’ spread.
“We can’t play games in the current situation, where for every one person in a large crowd, two to three more will likely become infect,” said league commissioner Atsushi Saito, per Jim Allen. “How must we act? We must protect the players, staff, families, but no one more so than the fans. We must protect the cultural legacy of pro baseball. That is why we made this decision.”
Opening Day was slated for March 20, though officials are now exploring an April start time. The league last experienced a delay to its season in 2011 after an earthquake and tsunami impacted the Fukushima region.
Japan’s professional soccer organization, the J-League, also remains in limbo. Officials had previously postponed the season to March 18 after being advised by health experts. However, the league has since extended its suspension period beyond that date.
Over 1,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Japan with 19 deaths to date. Amid the coronavirus’ impact in Japan and across the world, questions have risen over the fate of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Organizers maintain that the games will be held as scheduled despite growing calls for cancellation.
In the U.S., professional baseball is still scheduled to go on as planned with the MLB’s Opening Day set for March 26.