New Strictly Come Dancing judge Anton Du Beke has said the show is being filmed “as though we are still in the grip of the pandemic”, amid reports three of the professional dancers have not been vaccinated.

The show has been embroiled in controversy over recent days and on Thursday the BBC was forced to deny that dancers or celebrity contestants have threatened to quit the show over the row, or raised concerns with the BBC or the production team.

Du Beke, who was a professional dancer from the first series of the show but joins the judging panel full-time this year to fill in for Bruno Tonioli, said he does not know about the vaccination situation but is confident the programme follows strict safety protocols.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “In all seriousness, I don’t know anything about it, because I’m not part of the pros any more, so I’m not involved in the group.

“I do know this: if it’s anything like last year, everybody is tested every week anyway, everybody is bubbling as they are and everyone’s keeping distance, and everyone’s wearing face masks in the studio.

“So the whole thing is geared up as though we were in the sort of grip of the whole thing.

“I know, everything’s loosened and all the rules and regulations have loosened around the country, but I know on Strictly Come Dancing, because it’s a live show and we don’t want any nasty incident, I know that they’re treating it as though we are sort of still in the grip of the pandemic and it’s all taken very seriously and everyone’s doing exactly what they should, in line with the Government.”

Last year Olympic boxer Nicola Adams and professional partner Katya Jones had to withdraw from the show because of a positive Covid test.

Strictly Come Dancing
Nicola Adams (right) and Katya Jones had to withdraw from the show last year (Guy Levy/BBC)

Du Beke said: “That was an isolated situation last year, now the worry of course is, if you get one of those you can sort of survive, but if you get something that spreads through the group, that’s the end of the show.

“Everyone’s worked too hard for this and everybody wants to show to work, the viewers and everybody involved in the show.

“They’re all taking it really seriously and they’re all treating it as though we’re in the middle of the pandemic, so everyone is doing exactly what they should.”

A statement from the BBC on Thursday said: “A lot has been written about vaccinations and Strictly in recent days.

“The BBC has never commented nor confirmed the vaccination status of anyone on the show. It’s not our place to.

“It is not the case that concerns have been raised with the BBC or the Strictly production team from dancers or celebrities about vaccination, or that they have threatened to quit.

“We have in place strict procedures to protect those on the show and the wider production. Among the many measures in place on Strictly, the dancers are tested regularly to be in close contact with their partners.

“The cast, crew and everyone working on Strictly are focused on this weekend’s first live show and delivering another brilliant series.”

The broadcast will go ahead as planned on Saturday night, following reports in The Sun that three of the professional dancers have not been vaccinated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has waded into the row, urging them to get the jab.

The first live show will see Great British Bake Off star John Whaite and professional Johannes Radebe, the first male pairing in the show’s history, perform a tango to Blue Monday by New Order.

The first live show will air on BBC One at 7pm on Saturday September 25.