While countries across the world are still under strict lockdowns amid the global coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand residents had the chance to enjoy a mask-free rugby tournament.

On Saturday, more than 20,000 fans flooded Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to watch the Super Rugby game between the Otago Highlanders and Waikato Chiefs. Since New Zealand recently announced that the country is virus-free, no safety protocols were in place. Fans had the chance to cheer teams on with one another without adhering to any sort of social distancing rules.

New Zealand closed its borders three months ago, and shutdown its non-essential businesses. People were told not to interact with others except their families, which resulted in only 1,154 cases. Out of those, 22 have died, and last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the recovery of the country’s last known coronavirus patient. As the nation starts to return to normal, sports and entertainment may return.

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During the first sporting event in months, New Zealand’s sports minister Grant Robertson watched from the sidelines. He told ESPN that the event was “massive,” and “a world first,” but it’s “a payoff for all the hard work of five million New Zealanders.”

The United States are trying to follow suit, as the country is working to bring back sports. While the live event industry remains ultimately halted for the time being, sports leagues are discussing how to move forward from here. The NBA and MLS have scheduled a return, while the MLB is still discussing the league’s future. NFL, on the other hand, expects stadiums to be full this fall.

Last Updated on June 17, 2020