Taiwan's baseball fans return to stadiums as coronavirus spread ebbs

SHOWS:

NEW TAIPEI, TAIWAN (MAY 8, 2020) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)

1. BASEBALL TEAM 'FUBON GUARDIANS' WARM-UP

2. BATTER HITTING BALL

3. PITCHER THROWING BALL

4. BATTER HITTING BALL

5. FIELD PLAYER CATCHING BALL

6. WARM-UP CONTINUES

7. FIRST FAN TO ENTER STADIUM SHOWING OFF HER TICKET

8. CAMERAMEN FILMING

9. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 30-YEAR-OLD BASEBALL FAN, LIN WEN-HSUAN, SAYING:

"In times of epidemic there was nothing that could have been done (about having to wait to see a game), but it is already much sooner than I expected, initially I had expected to wait until the second half of the season before being able to enter the stadium. I feel very happy."

10. FAN HOLDING TICKET

11. FAN WALKING UP STADIUM STAIRS

12. FAN SHOWN ON TEMPERATURE MONITOR

13. FAN WALKING UP STAIRS

14. VARIOUS OF CHEERLEADERS DANCING AND THEN LEAVING

15. VARIOUS OF FAN DRUMMING

16. SOLDIERS HOLDING TAIWAN FLAGS

17. FAN WALKING BY

18. L.E.D. DISPLAY ON BACK OF BACKPACK DISPLAYING TEAM LOGOS AND WORDS READING (Chinese): "I AM GOING TO WATCH BASEBALL SO HAPPY"

19. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 39-YEAR-OLD BASEBALL FAN, NONO CHEN, SAYING:

"I anticipated this for so long. I thought it would still take a long, long time before I'd be able to watch baseball, but then they suddenly announced that we can come into the stadium to watch baseball. I immediately went to buy tickets."

20. RANKS WITH AUDIENCE SPACED OUT DUE TO SOCIAL DISTANCING

21. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) 39-YEAR-OLD BASEBALL FAN, NONO CHEN, SAYING:

"I think the results of the epidemic prevention pushed by the government are very good, so I feel very lucky to live in Taiwan."

22. SOLDIERS IN HAZMAT SUITS WALKING ONTO FIELD

23. SOLDIERS IN HAZMAT SUITS SINGING TAIWAN NATIONAL ANTHEM

24. VARIOUS OF SOLDIERS IN HAZMAT SUITS WALKING OFF

25. FAN SITTING BEHIND HEART-SHAPED CARDBOARD CUT-OUT READING (Chinese): "TAIWAN"

26. VARIOUS OF FANS CLAPPING AND CHANTING

27. FAN DANCING IN FRONT OF FIELD

STORY: Baseball fans in Taiwan were excited to be allowed back into stadiums on Friday (May 8) as the government started relaxing some controls implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Drumming and chanting could be heard in the Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium in New Taipei, where the home team Fubon Guardians won 7-6 against the Uni-President Lions.

Taiwan has been relatively successful at controlling the virus, with 440 cases to date and six deaths, thanks to early prevention and detection efforts. The island has never gone into total lockdown though the government has promoted social distancing and face masks.

Both the baseball and soccer seasons got underway in Taiwan last month, but without spectators, providing rare live action for fans at home at a time when the pandemic has shut down most professional sport around the globe.

One thousand spectators were allowed in to baseball matches on Friday in New Taipei and the central city of Taichung. Fans were required to undergo temperature checks, wear face masks and sit at least one metre apart.

Baseball is wildly popular in Taiwan, thanks to a strong cultural influence from Japan and the United States. To meet global appetite for any sports events at a time when many other countries have been locked down, baseball games in Taiwan have been providing English-language commentary, attracting rare attention from foreign fans and media.

(Production: Fabian Hamacher)