The spread of SARS-CoV-2 has been going on for a few months now (perhaps longer), and though the news is worrisome (and there's likely a lot worse to come) we have at least been introduced to the idea in fairly gradual stages and are used to the continual coverage. News and media outlets have been covering this right from the start, when the first few people got sick in Wuhan in December 2019.
However, some people have been trapped inside various editions of the reality TV show Big Brother, where participants live together for months on end without any contact from the outside world, including any outside news. That's about to change very abruptly for contestants on the German edition of the show.
In the Canadian edition, the contestants spotted something was going on last week, though they weren't sure what. At first, they noticed that usually during evictions there would be a lot of noise going on outside from the crowds, but there wasn't from the most recent one. They dismissed it, believing that the house had perhaps been soundproofed.
Since then, they have been told about the situation, and after being reassured that their families are OK, they've decided to stay in the house. Essentially they found out about the virus at the same time as discovering they were in the perfect quarantine situation, so it's easy to see why they chose to stay.
Contestants in Brazil have been in their edition of the show since January 21, which isn't due to finish until late April, and are unaware of any of the situation, in ignorant bliss.
In Germany, many of the show's contestants have been in there since February, with another group introduced in early March, who were told not to give the first inmates any updates on the virus. However, this means even the newer group hasn't heard the most recent developments, including that people have died from the virus, and that Germany has announced it's closing its borders amidst 7,588 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and now 17 deaths.
The makers of the show had initially said that they wouldn't tell the contestants about the virus, but following an outcry have said that they will inform them – in a live special edition of the show Tuesday, March 17.
The contestants will be allowed to ask questions about the pandemic, and receive video messages from their families as part of the "there's been a global disease outbreak" extravaganza.
People have spotted similarities between these real events and Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker's TV drama Dead Set, in which Big Brother contestants are trapped inside a fictionalized Big Brother house, without realizing there's been a viral outbreak in the outside world. In the case of the drama, the virus turned everybody into zombies, so here's hoping Brooker's almost psychic-like ability to predict the issues of the future are not actually at play here.
This isn't actually the first time something like this has happened, though. The contestants of the American edition of Big Brother were informed of 9/11, after one of the housemate's relatives was reported missing after the attack.