Tears and shock as German Big Brother cast learns about coronavirus crisis

Germany's Big Brother contestants reacted with tears and concern when the host on Tuesday broke the news of the coronavirus pandemic on live TV, lifting an information blackout that had kept them unaware of the shutdowns sweeping Europe.

Tears and shock as German Big Brother cast learns about coronavirus crisis
Moderator Jochen Schropp (l) and Dr. Andreas Kaniewski informed the contestants on Tuesday about the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: DPA

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 confinement measures to slow the virus's spread.

Host Jochen Schropp broke the news in the opening minutes of the evening show, sitting next to a doctor behind a glass screen to protect the contestants.

READ ALSO: Germany's Big Brother contestants to be told about coronavirus pandemic on live TV

“Pat, I can see the fear in your eyes,” Schropp said, as he tried to reassure the group their families were all well.

Michelle, a carer, burst into tears, saying she was worried about her 55-year-old mum who has a lung disease.

Most of the group sat in stunned silence, some mouthing “oh my God” to each

After watching news clips and an overview of how the virus has raced across the continent, the contestants were shown video messages from loved ones, prompting cheers and tears of joy from the room.

Many family members told the contestants to stay upbeat and used the opportunity to encourage them to stay put.

“It's probably the safest place in Germany right now,” one woman told Pat.

Some jokingly asked contestants to bring home some toilet paper.

The Big Brother contestants. Photo: -/die pressetanten/Sat.1/DPA

Hard-hit area 

The latest season of the show started in early February, when the virus was still largely confined to China's Wuhan city and there had only been a few contained cases in Bavaria.

However, four of the contestants joined only 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 ramps 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 more than 2,000 of the nation's 7,000 coronavirus cases.

At least 12 people in the state have died from COVID-19.

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

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

Many also criticised the show for broadcasting the reveal live during primetime.

“What a gruesome human experiment,” read one post.

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

Organisers have also stressed that anyone coming into contact with the residents has been taking 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 breaks the blackout rule only 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.

Member comments

  1. Is this really Newsworthy? Two articles about this in two Days?
    I mean, what a Surprise – they looked at each other & mouthed “OMG!”
    There MUST be better articles you could run than this!

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.