Spike in COVID-19 cases puts PBA's season opening plans in jeopardy

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial was the first to admit that after Saturday's new record-breaking COVID-19 single-day cases in the country, the league now faces uncertainty as far as starting its 2021 season is concerned.

On Saturday, the Philippines registered 7,999 new COVID-19 infections, topping the 7,103 recoded just the day before. The 7,999 now stands as the highest to date reported on a single day since the pandemic started. Prior to the past two days, the highest record stood at 6,958 on August 10, 2020.

And that fact isn't lost on Marcial, who has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 cases in the news.

"We're still unsure if we can be allowed by the LGU (local government unit) especially with what's happening now," Marcial relayed to ESPN5, with a worried tone.

Just last Tuesday, Marcial announced that the league already reached out to officials of Antipolo City to hold its 2021 PBA season where the Ynares Center is being considered as a prospective venue for a closed-circuit setup. The league even announced moving its season-opening date from April 11 to April 18.

But with the daily spike in the COVID-19 cases, Marcial is openly wondering about the league's season plans.

"We need to have the go-signal from Ynares (Antipolo), it must also be okay with the task force. Otherwise, we might have a difficult time again because as it is, the situation is saddening, not just for the PBA, but for everyone else," Marcial added in Filipino.

At the same time, Marcial felt other teams are struggling with the preparation for the season due to some key cities in Metro Manila experiencing unusual surge in the COVID-19 cases.

"Teams are having their practices, some individual practices and they all need to undergo swab testing, including the ball boys," he stressed. "The only problem I think is practices are not allowed in Quezon City. "I don't really know if some of these teams are now practicing in Quezon City."

Given the rising cases of infection, Marcial again reminded the players to observe the proper safety health protocols.

"They (players) know that already. And we've done that during the (PBA) bubble (in 2020.) I hope they will really take extra caution because it's difficult (if they get infected)," he added.