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'Big Brother' Germany contestants learned about coronavirus on live TV

The pandemic just became real for reality TV stars who had no idea about it.
/ Source: TODAY

The “Big Brother” reality TV franchise has spanned the globe since first launching in 1999. But the world feels small to the contestants sequestered together in a house under constant surveillance each season.

This week, the German “Big Brother" cast provided the perfect example of the disconnect that comes with that kind of isolation, as the housemates who’ve blocked out the world beyond their compound in Cologne just found out about the coronavirus pandemic.

Ten of the contestants began their own competitive quarantine on Feb. 10, just before words like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing” became part of the daily vocabulary for the rest of us.

Four more were added to the mix just days ago, but they told to keep the news of the virus to themselves to preserve the isolated nature of the show.

So, even though their country now has more than 13,000 confirmed cases of the virus and 31 deaths, most of the housemates had no idea about any of it — until Tuesday night, when public backlash about that prompted show producers to finally share the news on live TV.

Clips from the reveal episode show host Jochen Schropp speaking to the group directly, before passing things over to a doctor, who gave them details about the pandemic that’s still growing outside their walls. Both men spoke behind a clear barrier to reduce any contact risk they could pose to the otherwise isolated group.

The news was met with silence at first and then tears among many in the “Big Brother” house leaned on each other for support — and even more tears, though happier ones, when they were treated to brief-but-reassuring video messages from back home.

For longtime fans of the franchise, it marked a moment that reminded them of the second season of the United States' “Big Brother,” in which a ban on news from the outside world was temporarily lifted so that the housemates could learn of about the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.

It was news that hit close to home for one contestant, Monica Baily, who was informed that a cousin who worked at the World Trade Center was missing (and later confirmed dead).

As for the German “Big Brother” players, so far, none of them have been personally impacted by the spread coronavirus.