This is life inside The Block’s COVID shutdown
Queensland's new The Block competitors have revealed they were paid a wage by the production to stay afloat after the COVID-19 shut down left contestants in limbo.
Brisbane couple Jimmy and Tam were midway through their renovation in Brighton, Victoria, in March when host Scott Cam arrived to tell them they had to shut down the site indefinitely due to the global pandemic.
The long-time Block fans were on a flight home to Brisbane the following day with no idea if they would ever return to finish the life-changing renovation on the Channel 9 reality show.
"We were told your journey is probably over; you're most likely not coming back because we don't know what's happening with COVID," Jimmy, 33, said.
"We were sitting at home doing nothing. It was a very mentally challenging time."
Jimmy works as a plumber and Tam, 31, is a bar manager at Ferny Grove Bowls Club, but they had put their jobs on hold to film the reality show, as did the four other teams competing on the new season.
"The producers worked really hard with Channel 9 and they actually paid us when we were back," Jimmy said.
"We had all quit our jobs and put our life on hold. Having to come home to such an unstable economic climate, you couldn't go and get a new job and say 'I might have to leave if I get a call from The Block'."
The couple rent a home in Brisbane with their four-year-old daughter Frankie and went on the show hoping to win money they could use to buy a home.
It took 40 days for filming to resume with producers putting in measures to ensure the work sites were COVID safe, including limiting the numbers of workers in each room and recording everyone's temperatures each morning.
"In turn it made for longer hours for us and later nights which was a bit hard to get used to," Jimmy said.
"Our tools time got slashed … if you add that up across the week that's nearly a whole day lost."
However, the couple, who are known as the battlers on the show, said they were over the moon with their finished home.
Despite the stage four lockdown in Victoria, they were confident it would sell at auction.
"We know we have created an amazing house that someone would be lucky to buy. Our real estate agents aren't worried about the situation in Victoria," Tam said.
The bar manager has no experience in renovation but said she has a passion for "boho luxe" design.
"I change the cushions in the house at least once a week, jimmy doesn't like it," she laughed.
"I'm really happy with how (the house) turned out."
Jimmy added: "Tam hit it out on the park. Our house is different to anything you've seen on The Block before."
They will watch the show's premiere at the Ferny Grove Bowls Club, where they also tied the knot.
The Block returns for the 16th season at 7pm on Sunday on Channel 9.
Originally published as Brisbane couple reveal life inside The Block's COVID shutdown