South Korea’s K-league on Monday (February 24) postponed the start of the new football season in the face of the growing novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
“The K-league has decided to temporarily postpone the start of the 2020 K-league season until the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak eases,” it said in a statement.
This year’s edition of the 12-team competition — whose current champions are Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors — had been due to kick off this weekend.
“This is a measure to protect the health and safety of the citizens and our players with the highest priority against the outbreak of the COVID-19 which has entered a serious phase,” the K-league said after an emergency board meeting.
Authorities have so far confirmed 833 cases of the novel coronavirus in South Korea, most of them linked to Shincheonji, a controversial religious sect, and seven deaths — five of them patients at the same hospital.
Matches featuring Daegu FC, based in the city that is the epicenter of the South Korean outbreak, and nearby Pohang Steelers, had already been delayed.
The country has seen a rapid surge in the number of coronavirus cases — adding more than 800 cases in less than a week — since a cluster of infections emerged from a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu.
The updated figures on the website of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) brought the country’s daily increase to 231, its highest to date.
(With inputs from agencies)