Big Brother Germany contestants received the shock of their lives on live TV Tuesday when they were told about the coronavirus pandemic this week. The 14 men and women inside the sequestered house in Cologne, Germany, had no idea that COVID-19 had spread to the point of a global pandemic since they entered the house on Feb. 10.
During the live episode, host Jochen Schropp told the cast that "a disease called COVID-19 has spread across the world" and "reached Europe." Some contestants burst into tears, while others questioned what kind of effects the pandemic would have on the world, including the economy. The group also received video messages from their family and friends.
In early February, when the season started filming, coronavirus cases were mostly found in China. As of Wednesday, Germany had reported more than 9,000 confirmed infections and 24 deaths. Although the Big Brother cast was unaware of the crisis, most of Germany's businesses have been forced to close; the country even shut its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland except for commercial traffic.
The contestants hadn't heard about the pandemic because the rules of Big Brother forbid them from having contact with the outside world — which includes the crew not being allowed to speak to them about the virus.
On Tuesday, production company Endemol Shine released a statement calling the health and well-being of Big Brother Housemates their priority. "All current productions were informed last week that the usual format rules regarding outside news do not apply in this instance, and it was requested that they inform their respective housemates of the evolving situation regarding COVID-19. The majority of housemates have already been briefed, and this process will be complete today [March 17]."
A social media uproar likely forced the production company's hand to reveal the news to the house guests. Originally, the Sat.1 network claimed they were taking "special hygienic measures" to protect the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but nothing further was explained.
Big Brother Australia is also continuing production, although contestants have been informed of the outbreak.
The U.S. version of Big Brother faced a similar situation in 2001 when the Season 2 cast members were unaware of the 9/11 attacks. However, producers opted to tell the final three contestants about the national tragedy.0comments
So far, there is no official word on if CBS is still planning to continue production on this summer's season of Big Brother. The coronavirus has already halted production on several reality shows, including The Amazing Race, Survivor and The Bachelorette.
Stay up-to-date with coronavirus information by visiting the CDC's website.