Neighbours set shuts down after staff were put in hazmat suits amid coronavirus outbreak

Australian soap Neighbours has announced its decision to halt filming due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bosses at the soap have said they are putting the health and safety of their cast and crew first as cases of the disease continue to rise across the globe.

A spokesperson for the soap told 10 Daily: “Neighbours has decided to take a short break this week to ensure the production model in place can withstand any potential impact of the urgent COVID-19 situation.

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“The health and wellbeing of everyone on the set of Neighbours will always be our priority.“

Hours before the announcement, the Neighbours staff held a meeting to discuss concerns around the coronavirus and the decision was taken to halt filming, which predominantly takes place in Melbourne, until next Monday.

It's understood the break will not affect the show's on-air schedule.

Just a day before the announcement, the soap's actress Madeline West revealed the programme had launched strict measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, from banning kissing scene and cutting extras.

Madeleine, who has played Dee Bliss on and off since 2000, wrote on 9Honey: “Even out here in the iconic lot, we are now feeling the coronavirus pinch as our studio goes into lockdown.

“We were notified via a stern email on Monday that kissing and hugging, the hallmarks of a great soap, have been outlawed in favour of handshakes. Yesterday saw contact further reduced to elbow taps.”

Madeline also revealed that makeup artists were wearing hazmat suits and face masks to avoid direct contact with the soap’s cast and extras had been cut down on set, which meant no more than three extras were allowed in a scene at one time.

Neighbours isn’t the only soap that is taking precautions in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. EastEnders has also halted filming, while Coronation Street bosses has also banned kissing scenes in an attempt to precent the virus from spreading.

A source closely linked to the popular soap said: “All of the soaps are desperate to keep running.

“If they disappear out of the schedules there’s huge gaps which is a major headache.

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“Coronation Street shoots about six to eight weeks in advance, so viewers might see some kissing in the next month or so, but the scenes they’re shooting right now will have nothing of the sort in. They are taking no chances."

The insider continued by telling The Sun Online: “The longer they can keep cast and crew well, the better, and if a storyline has to suffer slightly by losing a kiss so be it."

“Scenes with kissing or close contact are being altered to minimise contact.”

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