South Korea baseball season suspended as toughest curbs in force in Seoul

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s baseball league on Monday suspended its season for a month, as the country’s toughest anti-COVID curbs took effect in Seoul in an attempt to quell its worst-ever outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: An employee takes a break outside a shop amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Seoul, South Korea, July 9, 2021. REUTERS/ Heo Ran

The postponement comes as starting on Monday the government imposed the strictest level of social distancing in Seoul and neighbouring areas for the first time, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people after 6 p.m.

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) convened an emergency board meeting on Monday to push back by one month the season that was scheduled to run from Tuesday and resume after the Tokyo Olympics on August 10.

The professional baseball league also delayed its season last year due to the pandemic, which had all but wiped the world’s sporting calendar clean.

South Korea recorded 1,100 new coronavirus cases for July 11, the highest-ever recorded on a Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said, though below three consecutive days of peaks leading up to 1,378 on Friday.

The new wave of infections has so far brought fewer serious cases and deaths than earlier rounds, with many older and more vulnerable South Koreans now vaccinated against the virus.

But health authorities have expressed concerns over the rising number of young patients who have not yet received vaccine shots, and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant in recent outbreaks.

KDCA Director Jeong Eun-kyeong said a new study estimated that the number of confirmed daily cases would only start to decline after reaching about 2,300 by mid-August.

“If the spread of the infection is strongly controlled, the number of daily cases is estimated to remain at current levels for the next two weeks and then begin to decrease to about 600 cases by the end of August,” Jeong told a briefing on Monday.

The latest outbreak brings South Korea’s total COVID-19 cases to date to 169,146, with 2,044 deaths, well below numbers seen in many other industrialised countries.

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