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The COVID-19 Pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2). The first recorded case was on 1st December 2019, and had 7,818 confirmed cases across 19 countries by the time the World Health Organization declared the virus as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" on 30th January 2020. This was later declared a pandemic on 11th March 2020.

Suspension of Production[]

The Facebook post, posted on the official Hollyoaks Facebook page on 22nd March 2020.

On 22nd March 2020, it was announced on the Hollyoaks official Facebook page that Channel 4 had decided to pause production of the programme. This occurred shortly after the filming of episodes 5431-5433, which saw the wedding of Mitchell Deveraux and Scott Drinkwell, as well as the murder of Lisa Loveday. The halting of production also came on the first day of the filming for the return of Ste Hay. His return would subsequently be moved to later in the year, and air in November 2020.

Hollyoaks was the last of the continuing dramas to announce the suspension of production. BBC had announced the suspension of EastEnders, Casualty, Holby City and Doctors on 18th March, whilst ITV announced the suspension of Coronation Street and Emmerdale on 19th March.

During the time Hollyoaks spent off air, the programme was replaced in the schedule with Hollyoaks Favourites - a series repeating past episodes. This was transmitted from 2nd April until 24th July 2020, when it was replaced briefly by Hollyoaks@25. The series then made a return on 11th September 2020 as the show returned for four episodes per week.

Schedule Changes[]

The halting of production saw schedule changes to the show which it had not seen in over a decade:

  • On 30th March, the show's weekly episode output was changed to three episodes, which had not been done since a fourth weekly episode was introduced in November 2001.
  • On 6th April, the show's weekly episode output was changed to two episodes, which had not been done since a third weekly episode was introduced in September 1999.

The show was briefly taken off air on E4 on 20th July and Channel 4 on 21st July, until 7th September when both channels aired a brand new episode each. Hollyoaks transmitted four episodes per week from 7th September 2020 until 18th January 2021.

The show's timeline was also disrupted by this change. This caused several continuity errors to arise in the dates of several key events. The death of Kyle Kelly (Episode 5418) was intended to be transmitted on 29th April 2020, but was transmitted on 9th June 2020. The date of Kyle's death was confirmed to reflect the transmission date, as Nancy Osborne listened to a voicemail which Kyle had recorded in episode 5415, and the date listed when Nancy opened the voicemail reflected the transmission date. However, when Toby Faroe showed Walter Deveraux an invitation to Scott Drinkwell and Mitchell Deveraux's wedding in episode 5430, the date listed on the certificate was 16th May 2020 - the intended episode transmission date. The date of the voicemail would have been changed during post-production, but changing the date on the certificate would have required the scenes to be re-filmed, which was not possible.

When production resumed in July 2020, extra scenes were filmed for episodes 5431-5433. The scenes filmed pre-suspension were set "a few months ago", whilst the newly filmed police interview scenes were set "today". This was to account for the changes in filming restrictions.

In-Universe/Real-World Changes[]

COVID-19 exists in-universe, and has had direct mentions. Several characters mention social distancing, lockdown and homeschooling, as well as the new tasks related to occupations such as medicine and law enforcement. For scenes taking place in Dee Valley University Hospital, characters are very regularly seen wearing masks. The pandemic was frequently mentioned throughout Diane Hutchinson's OCD storyline.

As filming requires social distancing, camera tricks are used to make the actors appear closer than they are. Hollyoaks is at an advantage in comparison to other soaps - they regularly film with a single camera set-up. Most scenes will be shot from a distance, over-the-shoulder, or the entire shot will be focused on a single character. Some actors have also joined 'bubbles', meaning that they do not need to be 2 metres apart, and can have physical interaction, such as hugging, kissing and holding/shaking hands.

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