Taiwan's professional baseball league has become the first in the world to play before spectators, admitting up to 1,000 fans to each of its two scheduled games Friday evening. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also recorded a short video statement which was played at the games, in which she thanked health care workers in Taiwan and worldwide for their sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the fans allowed in to each game, over 100 domestic and international media workers were on hand to see the Fubon Guardians host the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions at Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium, and the CTBC Brothers host the Rakuten Monkeys at Taichung's Intercontinental Baseball Stadium.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) had played a total of 33 games before empty stands since beginning its season on April 12.
The opening to fans was allowed Wednesday after the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) approved the CPBL's request to allow 1,000 fans at the games in a partial relaxation of the country's social distancing guidelines.
The approval, which came after Taiwan had completed nearly three weeks in a row without any COVID-19 cases being transmitted domestically, came with several restrictions.
Fans had to wear face masks, sit in designated seats that kept spectators apart based on social distancing guidelines, and refrain from eating or drinking anything.
Both home teams said their games sold the maximum 1,000 seats, though it appeared that some seats were still available on a local ticketing website for the game in Xinzhuang in New Taipei as it began.
CECC chief Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) attended the game in Xinzhuang wearing a customized number "0" Fubon Guardians jersey, in a nod to the zero new COVID-19 cases Taiwan recorded Friday.
Appearing on the field before the game, Chen welcomed the fans and thanked them for their cooperation with the government's epidemic prevention measures.
With few new cases being reported at present, Taiwan's response in the next phase will promote lifestyle changes to keep the virus at bay, Chen said, citing Friday's game as an example of "leisurely epidemic prevention."
Chen earlier declined an invitation to throw out the game's ceremonial first pitch, joking that he didn't want to hurt his back.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also recorded a short video statement which was played at the games, in which she thanked health care workers in Taiwan and worldwide for their sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"You're all MVPs," she said.