(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with latest announcements; ADDS photos)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- In response to a nationwide spike in coronavirus cases, three more baseball clubs announced Tuesday they'll join six others in playing home games without fans.
On Tuesday alone, the Hanwha Eagles, the NC Dinos and the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said they'll play upcoming home games behind closed doors.
The Eagles are based in Daejeon, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, while the Dinos are in Changwon and the Lions are in Daegu, 400 kilometers and 300 kilometers southeast of the capital, respectively.
Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province were placed under stricter social distancing guidelines Saturday, joined the following day by Busan, the country's second-largest city. Five KBO clubs in those areas -- Doosan Bears, LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes in Seoul, KT Wiz in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, and Lotte Giants in Busan -- will play before empty seats until further notice.
And on Sunday, the SK Wyverns decided to close their home park in Incheon, just west of Seoul, for their six-game homestand this week.
Daejeon, Changwon and Daegu aren't subject to stricter measures being implemented in the capital region, but the the three teams there took a preemptive step in trying to prevent further spread.
The Eagles said the metropolitan government of Daejeon asked for the ball club's support in strengthening prevention and control measures for COVID-19.
The Dinos had fans in the stands for Tuesday's game against the Heroes, but kept cheerleaders off stage. Changwon NC Park will be closed for Wednesday's game.
The Dinos said their action was in response to the neighboring city of Busan being placed under tougher social distancing guidelines.
The Lions also played Tuesday's game with fans in the seats at Daegu Samsung Lions Park, but the stands will be empty Wednesday.
South Korea reported 246 new cases Tuesday, with 235 of them being local infections.
Tuesday's development leaves the Kia Tigers, based in Gwangju, 330 kilometers south of Seoul, as the lone KBO club not to have closed doors to fans. The Tigers are playing in Seoul Tuesday and Wednesday, and have a two-game series at home on Thursday and Friday.
The KBO season began on May 5, rather than the originally scheduled March 28, because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and teams didn't have fans in the seats until July 26 -- at 10 percent of the stadium capacity, at that.
Then starting last week, the cap on the crowd size was raised to 25 percent. It barely lasted a week, though, as the nation braces itself for a new wave of infections.
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