Big Brother

This has got to be in the running for the biggest Big Brother twist of all time.

On Tuesday night, the contestants of Germany’s latest season of Big Brother were finally informed of the escalating coronavirus pandemic, live on the air, after remaining unaware of the growing crisis for weeks. The cast has been living in isolation in a house in Cologne since Feb. 6, when most cases of the novel coronavirus were still in Wuhan, China, with a few isolated cases around the world. Germany now has more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the disease, and 26 people have died there.

Host Jochen Schropp and the show’s resident doctor, Andreas Kaniewski, sat behind protective glass (in accordance with social distancing guidelines), as Schropp informed the 14 contestants that “a disease called COVID-19 has spread across the world” and “reached Europe.” Kaniewski provided additional details, by now familiar to the outside world: elderly people and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the most vulnerable, cases in children have tended to be mild, fever and cough are the most common symptoms. As the contestants listened, most sat in stunned silence, while some began to cry.

After explaining the situation, Schropp showed the contestants videos of their friends and family, reassuring them that they were healthy and encouraging them to remain on the show. A friend of one of the contestants said she was “not missing anything, because all the clubs and bars are closed.” More of the housemates burst into tears upon seeing these messages.

Big Brother producers have had to inform participants of an emergency before; in 2001, the producers of the American version interrupted the show’s second season to tell the final three contestants about 9/11.

The current German season will continue production for the time being. Producers have claimed that “special hygiene measures” are being taken to protect the contestants.

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