German Big Brother cast to learn about virus live on TV

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) –


Holed up in their artificial world with a news blackout, Germany's Big Brother contestants will finally learn Tuesday about the coronavirus pandemic that has left Europe in a lockdown -- live on TV.

Broadcaster Sat 1 had faced a growing backlash for keeping the 14 residents in the dark while the rest of Germany comes to grips with unprecedented shutdown measures to slow the virus's spread.

The show's host Jochen Schropp and a doctor will update the contestants on the outbreak in a special live show at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT), the broadcaster said.

The decision had been made "in agreement with contestants' families", it added.

The reality show participants will be given a chance to ask questions and watch video messages from loved ones.

The latest season of the show started in early February, when the virus was still largely confined to China's Wuhan city.

However, four of the 14 contestants only joined this month and were explicitly asked not to discuss the latest developments surrounding the virus.

Germany has in recent days closed schools and playgrounds, banned public gatherings and asked workers to work from home as it ramped up its virus response.

The contestants, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s, are staying in a glass house and adjacent log cabin-style home in Cologne, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The state is Germany's hardest hit area, accounting for over 1,500 of the nation's 6,000 coronavirus cases.

Five people in the state have died from COVID-19, out of a total of 13 nationwide deaths.

On the show's Facebook page, comments poured in about the decision to finally enlighten the residents.

"About time, these people have family members out there who could be at risk," said one commenter.

"Hope they don't panic! wrote another, while several called for the rest of the season to be cancelled.

The broadcaster defended its initial decision not to tell the contestants about the worsening outbreak, saying the show's rules didn't allow for outside news to filter through.

Organisers have stressed that anyone coming into contact with the residents had taken strict hygiene precautions.

The German show, in which participants get voted out over three months until there is a winner who gets a cash prize, usually only breaks the blackout rule to inform contestants about the death or injury of a loved one.

In the US in 2001, Big Brother contestants were told about the 9/11 attacks.