Finding ways to entertain ourselves during lockdown is vital to keeping sane, and many of us take comfort in continuing to watch our favourite TV programmes.
But, while the coronavirus pandemic has brought all kinds of businesses - from restaurants to hairdressers and pubs - to a stop, it has also stopped the cast and crew of the UK’s favourite soap operas from filming new episodes.
However, now there is good news for soap fans getting bored in lockdown - shows like EastEnders, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks have been given a green light to return to filming, as long as they are able to follow new safety and social distancing guidelines.
How will soaps adapt amid coronavirus?
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Many soaps have cut the frequency of their episodes, stretching out their pre-filmed episodes over a longer period of time.
When filming does resume, however, there will have to be changes made to the way scripts are written, scenes are shot, and how cast and crew interact.
Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod said, “Scripts are changing all the time - we have talked a lot about whether Coronation Street would exist in a parallel world or had a coronavirus in it.
“The Coronation Street we love reflects modern Britain albeit heightened. So to not reference it wouldn’t feel right. It has to exist but people also tune in for escapism and to see dramatic stories and stuff they don’t normally see in their own lives.”
It’s likely that soaps will have to follow “Covid-19 secure” guidelines, as released by the UK government.
What are ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines?
In a 50 page document published by the UK government - titled Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy - guidelines were released on how workplaces, including studios, that reopen can make themselves “Covid-19 secure”.
These guidelines include:
- Individuals keeping a two metre distance from those outside of their household wherever possible
- People keeping their hands and face as clean as possible through frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water. Face touching should be avoided and hand sanitiser should be carried everywhere - clothes should also be washed regularly
- Limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. The document says that “employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams”
A spokesperson for the Department for Culture said, “The government is working closely with the screen sector to understand how different types of productions can comply with social distancing guidelines, and give confidence to people in the TV and film industries that there are safe ways in which they can return to work.”
Which soaps can start filming again?
EastEnders will resume filming in June, with its stars required to maintain social distancing guidelines and even having to do their own hair and makeup.
BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said: "We're also exploring ways to re-start filming on more dramas and other major BBC shows as soon as pssible."
Because many soaps have a bank of pre-filmed episodes, you might not even see your favourite soap come off the air as they begin to gear up to resume filming.
Other soaps, like Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks have yet to announce when they might return to filming.