By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean baseball club SK Wyverns announced Sunday they will temporarily close their home stadium to fans as a precautionary measure during the coronavirus pandemic, following the action taken by their neighboring clubs currently under strict social distancing guidelines.
The Wyverns, a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club based in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, said they will not admit any fans to their upcoming, six-game homestand at SK Happy Dream Park, from Tuesday to next Sunday.
On Saturday, the government raised the three-tier social distancing scheme in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province a notch to Level 2, in response to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in those areas. With that change, which took effect Sunday, any outside gathering of 100 or more people are banned, meaning sports games in Seoul and Gyeonggi are to be played without spectators until further notice.
The government's decision affected four KBO clubs: the Doosan Bears, the LG Twins and the Kiwoom Heroes in Seoul, and the KT Wiz in Suwon, 45 kilometers south of the capital.
Though Incheon wasn't subject to tougher social distancing measures, the city is in close proximity to Seoul, and the Wyverns decided to take extra precautions.
The Wyverns said they will continue to monitor the virus situation in Incheon before reopening their gates.
The 2020 KBO season began May 5, as opposed to the original Opening Day of March 28 because of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Fans weren't allowed in the early going, due to lingering infection concerns, and the teams finally got the green light to start admitting fans for games starting July 26.
At first, teams could only operate stadiums at 10 percent capacity to ensure the safety and health of fans. The cap was raised to 30 percent last Tuesday, though clubs said they would keep it at around 25 percent to continue to exercise caution.
The KBO has been a gate-driven league and not having any fans for the first 2 1/2 months of the season had put teams in dire financial situations. Even with the government-mandated limit on the size of crowds, bringing fans back had been a much-needed relief for those teams.
And yet the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the capital region has put a damper on excitement that had been building. South Korea reported 279 new cases Sunday, the first time in five months that the daily total surpassed 200, and 267 of those were local transmissions.