Usually the biggest challenge on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! is its stomach-churning Bushtucker Trials. This year, the most difficult task is making the show under Covid-19 restrictions.
So, in addition to swapping the Australian jungle for Gwrych Castle in Wales, the producers have drawn up a “Covid management plan” that includes those on site wearing “proximity buzzers” to remind them to social distance, while hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly are set to be tested every three days.
The trials will also be tweaked to adhere to the guidelines and the production team at the castle will be about half the size it is when the series is made in Australia. Many will work remotely instead, with much of the editing done in London.
In addition to the set being closed to visitors, access to Ant & Dec and the celebrities limited, and regular Covid precautions such as hand-washing, ITV Studios has drawn up further protocols with doctors to ensure safety. They include crew members wearing masks when not at their desks, which will all face away from each other, and all work spaces being built 2 metres apart. Crew members will also have to take a fast-turnaround Covid test twice a week and self-isolate should it come back positive.
The celebrities in the camp, including athlete Sir Mo Farah, broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire and the Radio 1 DJ Jordan North, began self-isolating two weeks ago and will form a bubble once the series starts on Sunday.
They have been regularly tested, which led to one of them – reportedly Strictly Come Dancing professional AJ Pritchard – testing positive and being monitored, and will continue to be screened every three days once in camp.
ITV’s independent chief medical officer Dr Paul Litchfield said: “Those involved in I’m a Celebrity are used to working safely in extreme and difficult environments. The procedures and protocols developed aim to provide defence in depth against the coronavirus, applying industry best practice while always adhering to government and local guidelines.”
Since it began in 2002, I’m a Celebrity has been a popular mainstay of ITV’s schedules and the broadcaster has been keen to make it happen despite the upheaval entailed.
With the move to a chilly haunted castle, viewers tuning in on Sunday will immediately notice differences: the show’s logo has been changed to reflect the more cloudy, inclement weather, which means that instead of showering under a waterfall, the contestants are more likely this year to be soaked by rain.
ITV Studios director of entertainment, Richard Cowles, said: “Everyone on the production team has worked incredibly hard to bring I’m a Celebrity to Wales and a massive part of making that possible has been developing our protocols around Covid … to keep everyone connected with the production, both in front of and behind the camera, as safe as possible.”