In another blow to sporting events in the age of coronavirus, Canada is not allowing the Toronto Blue Jays to play home games in Toronto due to the pandemic, according to a statement from the country’s minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship.
The Blue Jays were initially given exemption for summer workouts in Toronto, as long as they agreed to have all players remain in a “modified cohort quarantine” at the Rogers Centre and an adjoining hotel. The Major League Baseball season is set to begin July 23.
The Canadian government determined that “the cross-border travel required for MLB regular season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety,” according to a statement from Marco E. L. Mendicino, the country’s immigration minister. The Blue Jays would also be required to play in locations where the risk of Covid-19 transmission remains high, Mendicino said.
“Canada has been able to flatten the curve in large part because of the sacrifices Canadians have made,” Mendicino said. “We understand professional sports are important to the economy and to Canadians. At the same time, our government will continue to take decisions at the border on the basis of the advice of our health experts in order to protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”
Under Canada’s Quarantine Act, any person entering Canada from the United States is subject to a strict 14-day quarantine. Gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited in the city of Toronto.
While the Blue Jays’ first choice to play home games in Toronto is now a bust, the team is considering using its Triple-A home in Buffalo, New York, or its Spring Training base in Dunedin, Florida.
A team spokesperson told CNN the team prefers the Buffalo location due to surging coronavirus cases in Florida.
“The safety of the broader community– our fans – and the team remained the priority of everyone involved,” said Mark Shapiro, Blue Jays president and CEO.
“Though our team will not be playing home games at Rogers Centre this summer, our players will take the field for the 2020 season with the same pride and passion representative of an entire nation. We cannot wait until the day comes that we can play in front of our fans again on Canadian soil,” Shapiro said.
The Blue Jays are scheduled for exhibition games on July 21 and 22 in Boston against the Red Sox.
Toronto’s first regular season game is slated for July 24 in Florida against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays’ home opener is scheduled for July 29 against the Washington Nationals.
Major League Baseball is planning a 60-game regular season with a normal playoff format to follow.
CNN’s Kevin Dotson and Paula Newton contributed to this report.