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South Korean sports fans can roar again after Covid bans lifted

Seoul (AFP) – South Korean baseball fans and football supporters will be allowed to cheer at stadiums for the first time in two years from Friday as the country drops almost all coronavirus restrictions.

Baseball is the most popular spectator sport in South Korea and the games are a chance for fans to let loose, fuelled by liberal supplies of alcohol and fried chicken.

Since the pandemic however spectators were supposed to watch the games in relative quiet and wear a face mask — if they were allowed to attend at all — and chicken and beer were available only for consumption out of sight of the field.

The Korea Baseball Organization later started allowing eating at most stadiums and on Friday announced the lifting of the ban on cheering, chanting and shouting.

Spectators will still be required to wear masks.

“Starting today, cheering will be allowed at all stadiums where KBO League games are held,” the league said in a statement, adding that “chanting while eating will be prohibited”.

Hours later, the K League professional football told AFP that it was also lifting restrictions, starting this weekend — “but cheering is not actively encouraged”.

Seoul said last week it will lift almost all social distancing measures, except for the mask mandate, citing a dramatic fall in reported cases of Covid-19 after an Omicron-fuelled surge.

More than 86 percent of the South Korean population of 51 million has been fully vaccinated, with the majority also receiving a booster shot.

Around 21,000 people in South Korea have died from the coronavirus — a 0.13 percent fatality rate, one of the world’s lowest.

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