The forthcoming HBL Pakistan Super League games in Karachi will be played without spectators in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The decision has been taken following advice from the Sindh Government late Thursday afternoon with the remaining clashes in the metropolitan area to be held in front of empty stands at the National Stadium.
There have been a total of 21 confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan with the majority of the infected people reported in Karachi.
The precautionary measure will not impact accredited commercial partners, media and other service providers, all of whom will be allowed access to the stadium. The immediate families of players and player support personnel, including franchise owners, can attend the matches.
The PCB has also ditched the handshake ritual and suggested players fist bump or use a verbal greeting instead. Fans have been asked to avoid invading the personal space of the players and refrain from requesting autographs, photographs and selfies.
“Following the advisory from the Government of Sindh this evening, the PCB has taken this precautionary and preemptive measure which will result in matches taking place in front of empty stadium," PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan said.
“We empathise with the Karachi fans who have been outstanding with their support in the earlier matches and during the hosting of eight HBLPSL matches last year. Once we received the advisory from the Government of Sindh, it was important for us to act quickly to ensure that the wellbeing of all concerned is better protected."
The ongoing HBL PSL is the latest tournament to be affected by the spread of coronavirus. The upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League is expected to be played behind closed doors with the final announcement to be made following the event's governing council meeting on Saturday.
“The initial 10 March decision to proceed with the Karachi leg of matches was taken following consultation with the Sindh Government and we have taken on board their latest advisory. We stated at the outset that we will work closely and take the lead from the local Governments," Wasim added.
“With regards to the remaining fixtures in Lahore, we are already in contact with the Punjab Government and will take on board its advisory in relation to the Lahore matches."
Three further matches from the first round while one qualifier will be held in Karachi, according to the schedule.