reality tv

"I can see the fear." The contestants on Big Brother Germany were told about COVID-19 on live TV.

Right now, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the news about coronavirus.

From social media to mainstream news channels, the coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19, is understandably dominating the news cycle.

In Germany, however, there was one group of people who were the last to find out about the global pandemic.

Watch: Mamamia’s Claire Murphy breaks down your most asked questions about COVID-19. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

On February 6, 18 contestants entered the German Big Brother house as the outbreak of the virus was just starting to spread outside of China.

At the time, Germany had just 13 confirmed cases of the virus, while the United Kingdom had three cases. Generally, business was continuing as usual.

Now, in just six weeks, the state of COVID-19 has changed astronomically.

At the time of reporting, there are over 184,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus across more than 150 countries or territories worldwide.

As more than 7,500 people have died from the virus worldwide, the world has ground towards an unimaginable halt.

Unbeknownst to the reality TV contestants, borders are shut, strict travel bans have been implemented, and some nations are in complete lockdown.

On Tuesday, the producers behind German Big Brother announced the contestants would be updated about the pandemic on live TV.

Although newer contestants who entered the show were banned from talking about the pandemic, the producers determined that all of the contestants should be notified about the current situation.


Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, decode the messages we’ve been given about COVID-19. Post continues below.

“The first contestants had been cut off from the outside world in preparation for the show on February 6,” a spokesperson for the show told CNN. 

“Theoretically they could know about the virus outbreak in Wuhan/China but don’t know anything about the current situation in Germany.”

In a special episode on Tuesday night, Germany time, host Jochen Schropp and a doctor broke the news to the contestants while sitting behind a glass screen.

During the episode, the contestants were shown a video about how the virus spread and how Germany had closed its borders. The contestants also learned that Germany’s bars and restaurants are currently closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Most of the contestants sat in stunned silence after watching news clips about the pandemic.

One contestant, Michelle, burst into tears after the segment aired, fearing for her 55-year-old mother who has lung disease.

The doctor, who was sat alongside host Schropp, explained how the virus is transmitted and described the symptoms and risk factors. He also reportedly demonstrated proper hand washing.

During a Q&A session afterwards, the contestants were told they will be able to leave the house if things get worse or if one of their family members falls ill.


One contestant asked about the death rate and the risk to their older family members, leaving many of the housemates in tears.

“Pat, I can see the fear in your eyes,” Schropp said, as he spoke to the group.

After the Q&A session, the house mates were shown videos of their loved ones.

“[The Big Brother house] is probably the safest place in Germany right now,” one woman said.

Other family members jokingly asked the contestants to smuggle home toilet paper.

Since the episode aired in Germany, many viewers have criticised producers for failing to inform the contestants earlier.

“Goosebumps, I feel so sorry for them right now,” one viewer said.

“What a gruesome human experiment,” another wrote.

There are currently more than 6,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany.

Brazil and Canada’s Big Brother housemates were also recently informed about the coronavirus pandemic.


On the Canadian version of the show, contestants were left feeling confused when they couldn’t hear a live audience when a contestant was voted off the show.

“We would have seen them,” one contestant said. “It’s weird.”

A few days later, a producer told the contestants about the outbreak over the PA. Producers checked that the contestants’ families were unaffected. The housemates were also checked for coronavirus symptoms after being notified about the news.

Contestants on the Australian show, which is currently filming in Sydney’s North Head, were also notified about the news.

“Housemates have been brought across the current situation and we are in constant contact with the families to keep all informed up to date,” a spokesperson for Endemol Shine Australia said.

Typically, Big Brother contestants are not informed about what’s going on outside the house.

In 2001, Big Brother contestants on the US show were notified about the September 11 attacks.

Feature Image: Twitter/Big Brother Germany.

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