WITH Metro Manila reverting to a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) setup for the next two weeks to recalibrate efforts in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine Basketball Association was forced to adjust its push for a return to activities.

Angling to return to on-court team training any time now after getting the nod from the government to do so, although under strict health and safety protocols, the PBA saw its plans pushed back anew with the decision of authorities to put the National Capital Region and other nearby provinces under stricter lockdown mode anew from Aug. 4 to 18.

This is to ease the burden on medical workers, who asked for a “breather” to craft a strategy to better handle the rising cases of coronavirus infections in the country.

The PBA was all set to resume team training pending some requirements later this week but said it will follow the directive handed down.

“We will adjust our calendar. We will adjust the swab testing and training. We will follow the government,” said PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial in a short phone interview with BusinessWorld.

The league got a breakthrough recently in its push for a return to activities after receiving the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) from pertinent government agencies which serves as the go-signal to proceed after suspending its season on March 12.

The JAO came from the Games and Amusements Board, Department of Health and the Philippine Sports Commission and contains the implementing guidelines governing the conduct of professional and nonprofessional sports training while the country is under community quarantine brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

But despite the recent development, Mr. Marcial said they are still hopeful of eventually getting their return plans going en route to resuming the season in October.

“We are still on track despite this delay. Our target is to resume the season by the second week of October. So the teams still have time to train later this month and in September before hopefully the restart of the season,” the PBA commissioner said.

Included in the PBA’s return to training protocols are the players undergoing a series of swab testings; players are expected to abide by the “closed circuit” method that has them confining their travel as much as possible to home-to-practice facility and back; and during workouts, to be overseen by a designated health officer, players must observe proper distancing (only four players at a time) and hygiene.

Violations of the closed circuit method and during the workouts carry corresponding penalties. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo