April 30, 2020 / 9:05 PM / a month ago

Soccer-Portuguese league could resume on May 30 says Prime Minister

LISBON, April 30 (Reuters) - The final 10 rounds of Portugal’s top-flight Primeira Liga soccer season could be played from May 30, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on Thursday as the country begins to ease its COVID-19 lockdown to kick-start an ailing economy.

Costa said the league will need permission from the health ministry to get back underway, and that matches would be played behind closed doors, as he declared that individual sports such as golf and tennis could resume from Monday.

The league was suspended on March 12 with FC Porto leading defending champions Benfica by a point after 24 rounds in an exciting two-horse race for the title.

Porto, runners-up last season, have 60 points, one more than their Lisbon-based rivals, with Sporting Braga a distant third on 46.

Portugal would be one of the first major European leagues to resume action amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with France and the Netherlands having already cancelled their seasons.

Belgium initially announced they would do likewise, though that decision still needs to be ratified by the clubs and a final vote will be taken on Monday as they await more clarity on a possible easing of lockdown rules.

Portugal has reported 25,045 cases of the coronavirus and 989 deaths, a comparatively low toll backed up by one of the highest testing rates worldwide at 37,000 per million people.

The country’s health system has remained below 65% of hospital bed capacity throughout the pandemic, with nine out of 10 cases treated at home and just 1% needing intensive care. (Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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