Coronavirus: 'Big Brother' cast in Germany still unaware of global Covid-19 pandemic

The 14 men and woman on the reality show will be told about the rapid spread of Covid-19 today

The cast members of Big Brother Germany. Courtesy Sat.1

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It has dominated headlines, news reports and TV programmes around the world for weeks upon weeks, but there is a small group of people in one German city still blissfully unaware of the coronavirus pandemic.

All because they're competing to win a reality show.

Ten members of German cast of the current season of Big Brother entered a house in Cologne on February 6, when the global number of confirmed coronavirus cases sat at around 28,000 with 25 countries affected. Four further contestants entered the house on March 6, three days before Germany's first death from the virus was reported.

When the show began to air, the virus was still predominately centralised in China, where cases were first reported in December.

Now, as of Tuesday morning, 182,406 cases have been reported across more than 100 locations, with 79,433 recoveries and 7,154 deaths. The number of deaths outside China have now surpassed those inside, and the situation was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11.

The 14 men and women that make up the 13th series of German Big Brother currently have no idea that the spread of Covid-19 has increased drastically in their home nation this month, with more than 7,200 cases reported.

The show's producers had defended their decision to keep contestants uninformed, telling German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung that they would only intervene should a participant's family member fall ill.

Executives have since reversed their decision, however, with Big Brother set to air a special episode tonight where contestants will be told about the pandemic. They will also be given the opportunity to ask questions, and will receive pre-recorded video messages from family members.

As part of the reality TV show, which first aired in the Netherlands in 1999 and has since been adopted in more than 50 countries, contestants are isolated from current events due to the social experiment format. They also don't come into contact with the outside world during their time on the show, with segments recorded from remotely controlled cameras.

"Sat.1 has decided to inform the Big Brother residents about the events in Germany and the world in an additional live show," a statement from the broadcaster announced. "This decision was made in consultation with the relatives."

Sat.1 also confirmed that all contestants have tested negative for the coronavirus.

The German contestants aren't the only Big Brother competitors to have been kept in the dark about the spread of Covid-19. Seasons of the show are currently in motion in both Canada and Brazil, where housemates were unaware of the pandemic until recently.

Contestants in the North American series were informed about the situation this week, and all chose to remain on the show. Producers have taken preventative measures, such as eliminating a live studio audience and stepping up hygiene measures on the Toronto set.

“Insight Productions has taken precautionary measures for Big Brother Canada with regards to Covid-19,” a statement confirmed. “The health and safety of the staff, crew, house guests and audience members are of the utmost importance and effective March 12, Insight Productions suspended audience members from attending live tapings of the show until further notice.”

The eighth season of Big Brother Canada debuted with 16 contestants on March 4.

Competitors on the Brazilian iteration, who entered the Big Brother house in January, were informed about the spread of the coronavirus on Monday night, according to local media.

Contestants on the Australian version of the reality show, which began filming last month, have already been told about the pandemic.

“Housemates have been brought across the current situation and we are in constant contact with the families to keep all involved up to date," confirmed production company Endemol.

This is not the first time the ban on relaying current affairs has been lifted on Big Brother, with American contestants told about the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 as one housemate had a family member missing.

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