Ant and Dec kicked off Saturday Night Takeaway by gently making light of the guidance around the spread of Covid-19, while saying they wanted to “put a few smiles on a few faces tonight”.
The entertainment show went ahead with a live studio audience after the presenting duo assured fans that it was “business as usual”.
As the show started, Ant McPartlin cleaned his hands with antibacterial gel before he ran down through the audience to meet his co-star on the stage.
Donnelly used a namaste gesture with his hands held together, similar to the non-contact way Prince Charles greeted them earlier this week at the Prince’s Trust Awards.
Having run through the audience to the stage, the pair jokingly touched each others’ feet and elbows, rather than shaking hands.
Addressing the concerns around coronavirus, McPartlin said: “I’m sure like us you’ve all been following the news, and in the current climate nothing is more important than people’s health.”
Donnelly said: “But unfortunately that means we’re not going to be able to bring you the final show of the series from Florida.”
ITV had already confirmed that the planned series finale next month will no longer be broadcast from the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida as the theme park closed its doors.
As the audience groaned, McPartlin added: “We’re also disappointed, but Walt Disney World in Florida and Virgin Holidays kindly promised that everybody who has won a place on the plane will be heading to Florida at a future date.”
Donnelly continued: “And even better than that, they have said we can still have more places to give away.
On our way in to prepare your #SaturdayNightTakeaway for tonight. Weâre business as usual and will be for as long as we are able and allowed. Weâll do our best to bring you a few smiles. See you on the telly!— antanddec (@antanddec) March 14, 2020
“We are going to do our best to put a few smiles on a few faces tonight.”
The pair then kicked off the show with the first challenge of the evening, which saw singer Fleur East in an unknown takeaway somewhere in the country.
The show also featured Joanna Lumley as the guest announcer.
While Saturday’s programme went ahead as usual, next week’s episode could be put in jeopardy as plans are under way to ban mass gatherings from next week as the Government looks to implement more extreme measures in the fight against coronavirus.
Broadcasters are facing uncertainty around shows featuring live studio audiences as fears around the pandemic continue to grow.
Channel 5 has already announced it is scrapping a live audience from The Jeremy Vine Show from Monday.
The channel said in a statement on Friday: “As a precautionary measure we have taken the decision not to have a live studio audience for The Jeremy Vine Show for the time being.
“We will continue to monitor and review official guidelines and advice.”
Despite the move from Channel 5, the BBC and Channel 4 have not yet taken such measures.
A BBC spokesman said they are “keeping the situation with our audience-based programmes under review”, adding: “While the current Government advice doesn’t necessarily prevent such programmes taking place, this is a rapidly evolving situation and we take seriously our duty of care to audiences, panellists and our staff.”
Channel 4 will also continue to film its TV shows without alteration, with a spokeswoman saying on Friday: “We and our production partners are continuing to monitor the situation closely and are following the advice from Public Health England.”