In a setback to the resumption of professional sports, the Chinese government issued an order Tuesday delaying the restart of the Chinese Basketball Association and other group sporting events, according to documents obtained by ESPN.
The CBA's attempts to return to action after being shut down since January because of the coronavirus is seen as a test case for American sports leagues, especially the NBA.
The General Administration of Sport, the body that issued the order, gave no timetable for when it plans to lift the new restriction. The CBA had been making plans to split its 20 teams and send them to two cities to play each other in empty arenas within a month, a plan the NBA might consider down the line.
CBA teams have been informing players that they still intend to return to play and hope to have more clarity in a few weeks, sources told ESPN's Jonathan Givony.
"It's looking toward the end of April, for sure in May, based upon what I've heard," Stephon Marbury told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Monday. "Because of the severity of it, they don't want a resurgence of the virus to come back. So they're taking all precautions, making sure everyone gets tested. I've already been tested twice."
While the spread of the disease has slowed dramatically in China and some aspects of life are headed toward normalcy, sports officials are concerned about asymptomatic carriers, sources said.
The Chinese government announced this week that it soon plans to release official numbers about people who have been found to be asymptomatic, a category that has previously not been broken out in public statistics.
The government specifically shut down the possibility of marathons and encouraged citizens to work out by themselves and in groups connected through the internet.
The CBA planned to house teams in quarantined hotels with multiple temperature checks per day to try to avoid the risk of exposure and spread of the virus. More than a dozen American players, including Jeremy Lin and Lance Stephenson, returned to China within the past two weeks to start a 14-day quarantine with the expectation the season could begin soon.
The teams had begun holding practices as they waited for their foreign teammates to be cleared to join them. It wasn't immediately clear if these practices would be allowed to continue.