SAO PAULO, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Brazil's opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia at Sao Paulo's Corinthians Arena next month will be played without fans, the Sao Paulo state government said on Wednesday.
The announcement came a day after Brazil's health ministry said it approved a proposal by the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) that would allow stadiums to operate at up to 30% of their capacity.
"We respect the CBF and the leaders who seek to give value to sports but our obligation and our duty is to protect the lives of all people, including coaches, technical commission, players, fans and all those who attend a stadium in Sao Paulo," governor Joao Doria told a news conference.
Brazil will face Bolivia in South America's largest metropolis on October 9 before playing another qualifier against Peru in Lima four days later.
The South American World Cup qualifying tournament had been due to begin on March 23 but was twice postponed because of the public health crisis.
Brazil has the world's second-highest COVID-19 death toll behind the United States. Fans have been banned from entering stadiums in the South American country since mid-March, when all domestic football competitions begun a months-long hiatus.
Upon announcing on Tuesday that fans would be partially allowed back into stadiums, the health ministry said the final decision would rest with relevant state and municipal governments.