Coronation Street will resume filming on 9th June, almost three months after production was halted due to the UK lockdown, but not everyone will return to set quite yet.
Strict safety measures will be in place in the soap's Manchester studios, but ITV has confirmed any cast and crew member over the age of 70, or with underlying health conditions, will not be required back initially. Individual risk assessments will be made to determine when it's safe for any member of the team, in front of or behind the camera, in a vulnerable category to return to Coronation Street at some point later down the line.
With a number of older cast among the Corrie ensemble, many at the centre of big storylines, who exactly falls into the over-70s group, and therefore will still be absent from our screens when new episodes air in early July, following on directly from material shot pre-lockdown?
William Roache (Ken Barlow)
Living legend Bill, 88, has, of course, been on the cobbles since day one, and there was a national outcry earlier this year when Ken Barlow announced he was selling No.1 Coronation Street and moving to retirement village Still Waters with glamorous girlfriend Claudia Colby. After a while he got homesick and took the house off the market, so how will his sudden absence be explained? And who will daughter Tracy Barlow turn to as her stepson Oliver Battersby battles mitochondrial disease?
Eileen Derbyshire (Emily Bishop)
Technically, Derbyshire (also 88) remains on the extended break she began in 2016 but she's still considered a member of the cast and made an appearance via video call for Ken's birthday in October 2019. If she can film another similar cameo from home maybe she'll pop up again on Zoom over the summer?
Barbara Knox (Rita Tanner)
The cornerstone of the community's retail hub, Rita has been behind the counter at local newsagent the Kabin for decades. Knox, 86, made her first appearance in the Street back in the early 1960s. Her absence could be felt by Gemma Winter, who looks upon the former lounge singer as a surrogate granny and will be in need of support as she battles post-natal depression.
Malcolm Hebden (Norris Cole)
Hebden went extended sick leave in 2017 after suffering a heart attack which required major surgery, and returned as a semi-regular from 2019. The most recent of his recurring reappearances was in Ken's Still Waters spin-off storyline - as far as we know, Norris is still living in the retirement community with fiancée Freda Burgess (and possibly still hating every minute).
Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts)
A fan favourite for over 30 years, plucky pensioner Audrey won't be around to keep grandson David Platt in line as he goes increasingly off the rails following wife Shona's amnesia ordeal. What will one of Weatherfield's most dysfunctional families do without their matriarch? Gail will have to step up, although actress Helen Worth is on the cusp of the age category and is due to turn 70 early in 2021…
Maureen Lipman (Evelyn Plummer)
Veteran performer Lipman has alread publicly urged Corrie not to forget about the oldies that are so important to the fabric of the show. The 74-year-old has played battle-axe Evelyn Plummer, long-lost gran of Tyrone Dobbs, since 2018, and previously appeared in the guest role of temporary Rovers manager Lillian Spencer back in 2002. Evelyn's romance with old flame Arthur Medwin is one of the storylines that may have to be paused before older actors can return to their roles.
David Neilson (Roy Cropper)
Local cafe Roy's Rolls may not even be open by the time Corrie's new episodes transmits, which would make it easier to address the absence of its owner played by 71-year-old Neilson. Maybe he's in isolation in the upstairs flat tinkering with his model railway, leaving teenage niece Nina in charge of a takeaway-only service?
Paul Copley (Arthur Medwin)
Evelyn's aforementioned love interest is also on a continued enforced sabbatical, despite the sweet fling only just starting up again for the childhood sweethearts. Copley, 75, made his first appearance as Arthur earlier this year, following a recent guest stint in Emmerdale as Charity Dingle's estranged dad Obadiah.