SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean baseball league said Wednesday it will keep an eye on the gradual reopening of schools as it hopes to start putting fans back in the stands during the pandemic as early as next month.
Ryu Dae-hwan, secretary general of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), said the league is in "close coordination" with the sports ministry and public health officials" to determine when fans will be allowed to attend games again.
The 2020 regular season began on May 5, after a delay of more than a month caused by the coronavirus outbreak, without fans in the seats. Citing lingering COVID-19 concerns, the KBO has yet to set a date on the return of fans.
Meanwhile, high school seniors returned to classrooms Wednesday, with the start of the new academic year pushed back by more than two months. Younger students in high, middle and elementary schools will make their way back in phases over the next three weeks.
Students' safe return to schools will be seen as a sign that life will be back to normal, or at least some semblance of it. Without any sudden spike in infections among students for a certain period of time, the KBO will feel emboldened to open the gates to fans.
"For now, we'll have to see until next week how schools fare with their students back," Ryu said.
The KBO is hoping teams will start playing in front of fans by early June.
Its initial goal was to have fans back by mid-May, after about 10 games into the season, but infections linked to Seoul's nightlife district of Itaewon threw a wrench into that plan.
To maintain safe distancing, teams will likely be allowed to sell only about 20 percent of the seats in the beginning, and then gradually increase that figure depending on the situation with the virus.
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