Filming of EastEnders and top BBC dramas has been halted amid the Coronavirus outbreak – as plans for “virtual Church services” and older-age exercise routines were unveiled by the broadcaster.
All BBC Studios’ continuing dramas – including Casualty, Doctors, Holby City, River City and Welsh series Pobol y Cwm – will have filming suspended.
EastEnders fans will still be able to get their fix of Walford, from the episodes already filmed.
But TV bosses will air just two episodes of the soap a week to make them last as long as possible.
Production on the soap – the writing and planning – will continue.
ITV soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale have not announced plans to suspend filming but will drop the number of episodes.
The announcement came as BBC Director-General Tony Hall unveiled “a series of changes to our output”, with “special programming and content,” saying the BBC had a “special role to play at this time of national need.”
The One Show will be “a consumer programme show for all aspects of the crisis,” including “health and wellbeing advice, keeping fit and healthy eating tips”.
Health Check UK Live, on BBC One daytime, will “directly address the concerns of viewers who are in isolation, offering tips on how to keep healthy and happy at home”.
The BBC will also launch “a virtual church service on Sunday mornings across local radio in England, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury”.
The BBC also aims to broadcast a “weekly Sunday morning Church service on BBC One, and explore how to support other religions and denominations”.
“We will work with partners to get older-age-group exercise routines, and other fitness programming, into people’s homes on TV or radio,” it said.
Culture In Quarantine “will keep the arts alive in people’s homes,” and be focused across “Radio 3, Radio 4, BBC Two, BBC Four, Sounds, iPlayer and digital platforms”.
The corporation said, in a statement on EastEnders, that “in light of the spread of Covid-19, after much consideration, it has been decided that filming on EastEnders will be postponed until further notice.
“The decision was made after the latest Government update.
“We will continue to follow the latest news and advice from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England,” it said.
“We have also taken the decision to reduce the amount of episodes we broadcast each week to two, so that we can ensure the audience can continue to enjoy EastEnders in their homes for as long as possible.”
It said that “filming on all BBC Studios continuing dramas will be postponed until further notice.”
It is thought that EastEnders, which will air on Mondays at 8pm and Tuesday at 7.30pm, has already stopped filming.
ITV announced a change to the scheduling pattern for Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
From March 30, Emmerdale will air Monday to Friday at 7pm.
Coronation Street currently broadcasts two episodes on some nights, but it will drop its 8.30pm episode to broadcast only at 7.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“The continued transmission of both soaps is a priority to all of us at ITV and to our audiences who enjoy the show,” it said.
“Whilst carefully adhering to the latest health advice from the Government and Public Health England, our production teams are continuing to film episodes in Manchester and Leeds.
“With this change of transmission pattern it will ensure we have great new soap episodes coming to air every weekday night until at least the early summer.”
BBC chief Lord Hall said “there will be disruption to our output along the way” but the broadcaster said BBC Breakfast, the One, Six and Ten (O’Clock news) are a priority.
In January, the BBC announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output, leading to around 450 job losses.