PBA to draw up new plan for Season 46 amid spike in COVID-19 cases

The PBA Board of Governors will seek to chart a new course for the 2021 season after the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces set back the launch to May at the earliest.

Commissioner Willie Marcial said Tuesday that the league's top officials will convene sometime after the end of the ECQ on April 11 in hopes of determining the best possible solution for kickstarting the 46th Season.

"We'll look at the appropriate measures that will be made for the league," Marcial told News5's Lyn Olavario in Filipino. "Once we're able to work out the availability of the governors, we'll talk about what the next steps will be."

The league originally eyed an April 18 start for the season at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, but a spike in COVID-19 cases forced the Philippine government to call yet another lockdown over NCR Plus, a cluster that includes Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan, and Laguna.

Malacañang on Monday reportedly ruled out a possible extension of the ECQ and is eyeing a downgrade to a modified ECQ (MECQ), but teams still won't be able to practice until the lockdown shifts to a more lenient general community quarantine (GCQ).

"At the earliest, the season will start in May since teams will need two to three weeks of practice," he said. "But we need to find out what kind of quarantine they'll impose next before we are able to send another letter to the [Rizal] LGU and to the IATF.

"We'll also have to wait for a new JAO (joint administrative order from the Department of Health, the Games and Amusements Board and the Philippine Sports Commission) to be able to start practicing," Marcial added.

Set to be tackled in the board meeting are the league's financials and scheduling. A bubble season is in the back pocket, but Marcial said the PBA will try to exhaust all other options first -- including plans for vaccination before playing -- before considering the plan.

"The vaccine is one answer, because even if someone tests positive, it won't be a severe case. Our only questions is: when will the vaccines arrive? We've already ordered from Red Cross and boss Manny V. Pangilinan will be giving us a share too, but both of them haven't received their vaccines yet," said Marcial.

The PBA has ordered "2,000 to 3,000" doses of the Moderna vaccine from Red Cross, according to Marcial. Another 1,500 doses will be received by the league from the MVP group.

Per vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., doses of Sinovac (1.5 to 2 million doses), COVAX (1 million) Sputnik V from Gamaleya (3 million) are set to arrive sometime this April.

In May, more doses of the aforementioned vaccines, as well as that of AstraZeneca (2.6 million) and Moderna (194,000) will be delivered to the Philippines.

"What I've heard from other companies is that they'll get their vaccines around June or July," he continued. "So we have to deliberate our next move. What will we do? Will we wait for the vaccine? What are we going to do without vaccines? Should we start playing during GCQ or MGCQ? What about the safety of the players? There's a lot of factors that we need to consider. It's like a flowchart."