Filming of the new Vikings spin-off drama series for Netflix, Vikings: Valhalla, was temporarily suspended this week in Co Wicklow after close to a dozen crew and cast members tested positive for coronavirus.
The 24-episode series is being filmed with backing from MGM Productions at Ashford Studios in Wicklow, where the six series of the original History Channel hit were also made.
Crew and cast members are tested for coronavirus several times per week, and some of those working full-time on the production are believed stay together in local accommodation.
Production of Valhalla was shut down in Ashford on Monday and Tuesday after a batch of positive results came back from a private clinic.
However, a production source said that all of those who had tested positive were subsequently retested and came back as negative and that the original results were being viewed as “false positives”.
“Although they have been minimal throughout the course of production to date, we take every positive test seriously and strict protocols and contract tracing have kept us safely in production when those do occur,” said the source.
“Earlier this week, we received a number of false positive test results which caused us to pause production on Monday and Tuesday. Once the false positive results were confirmed, we were cleared to go back into production on Wednesday.”
It is understood that all of those who had originally tested positive were put into quarantine and were allowed to go back to work on the show once they had subsequently tested negative.
Screen Ireland, the State agency that attracts international film-makers to Ireland, said that anti-virus protocols for film and television productions were devised by Screen Producers Ireland with taxpayer funding.
“The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has confirmed that these guidelines adhere to Government Covid-19 health and safety best practice guidelines,” it said.
Following on from the smash-hit Vikings, Valhalla is set 100 years later towards the end of the era and will dramatise the lives of historical characters such as Norse explorer, Leif Eriksson, and William the Conqueror.
Episodes are written by Jeb Stuart, who worked on movies such as The Fugitive and Die Hard. Irishman Morgan O’Sullivan is an executive producer on the show.
It was originally supposed to begin production earlier this year to be shown on Netflix in 2021, but filming was postponed due to the pandemic. Production subsequently commenced late in the summer after restrictions were relaxed. The cast includes German actor, Yvonne Mai, who will play a character called Merin, while Irish actor Bill Murphy will play another called Odgar.
Ashford Studios, owned by businessman Joe O’Connell, extended its facilities for the new production, which employs hundreds of crew and extras.