Lord Sugar insisted all 'Apprentice' candidates be double-jabbed

Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: The Apprentice 2022 candidates and Lord Sugar (centre).    - (C) Ray Burmiston - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
Lord Sugar insisted all The Apprentice contestants were double vaccianted before they could take part in the show. (BBC)

Lord Sugar insisted that all the candidates on the latest series of The Apprentice be double-vaccinated against coronavirus before they could take part.

The business reality show returns to BBC One at 9pm on Thursday, 6 January, with 16 aspiring entrepreneurs competing for an investment of £250,000 and mentoring from the 74-year-old magnate.

Lord Alan Sugar told MailOnline: "Candidates did have to be double vaccinated before taking part this year. The COVID protocol was harrowing to put it simply.

Read more: Meet 'The Apprentice' 2022 candidates

"My last count was that I have done 79 COVID tests, I haven't got COVID, but I've got a broken septum in my nose. Obviously, the criteria were they had to be double vaccinated, absolutely.

"One thing I can tell you is that you will not see one mask throughout the whole of the 12 episodes. It was a very difficult thing to do.

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Lord Sugar was adamant that The Apprentice boardroom be COVID secure. (BBC)

"This shows you how great and resourceful people can be in problems, which is what us British are good at doing. The challenge of doing this thing through COVID, we took it in our stride. In a funny way, some great things came out of it."

The 16th series of the the reality show features a trained witch, a former contestant for US dating show The Bachelor, an Italian-born pharmacist who is heir to a multi-million pound fortune and an online pyjama-store owner who took part in Channel 4's The Island with Bear Grylls.

A spokesperson for The Apprentice has clarified: "The Apprentice was filmed during the very early stages of the vaccine rollout and prior to individuals being double vaccinated.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:01:00 on 21/12/2021 - Programme Name: The Apprentice - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **STRICTLY EMBARGOED for use until 00:01hrs, Tuesday 21st December 2021** Baroness Brady, Lord Sugar, Tim Campbell MBE - (C) Ray Burmiston - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
Lord Sugar will be supported by advisors Baroness Brady and Tim Campbell, who won the show in 2005. (BBC)

"Strict procedures were put in place to protect those on the show and the wider production, with measures including regular testing, living as a cohort and social distancing when outside of the cohort."

Last year BBC reality show Strictly Come Dancing was caught up in a row over reports several of the professional dancers had not been vaccinated against coronavirus, but were still allowed to take part.

A Strictly spokesperson said: "We do not comment on speculation of somebody’s COVID vaccination status. Strictly Come Dancing production has, and will, continue to follow strict government guidelines to ensure the safety of all on the show."

Lord Sugar previously revealed that a selection of candidates had been recruited for the show back in March 2020, but the show had to be delayed due to the global pandemic.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 02 Undated BBC Handout Photo from The Apprentice. Pictured: (L-R) Baroness Brady, Lord Alan Sugar, Claude Littner. See PA Feature SHOWBIZ TV The Apprentice. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/BBC/Boundless/Ray Burmiston. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ TV The Apprentice. WARNING: Use of this copyright image is subject to the terms of use of BBC Pictures' Digital Picture Service (BBC Pictures) as set out at www.bbcpictures.co.uk. In particular, this image may only be published by a registered User of BBC Pictures for editorial use for the purpose of publicising the relevant BBC programme, personnel or activity during the Publicity Period which ends three review weeks following the date of transmission and provided the BBC and the copyright holder in the caption are credited. For any other purpose whatsoever, including advertising and commercial, prior written approval from the copyright holder will be required
The Apprentice advisor Claude Littner was injured in an electric bicycle accident last year. (BBC)

The self-made business magnate lost both his brother Derek and sister Shirley to COVID-19 in 2020.

He will be joined in the boardroom by advisors Baroness Karren Brady and Tim Campbell, who won the first series of the show in 2005.

Read more: Lord Sugar offers update on Claude Littner after 'horrific' accident

Campbell is standing in for Claude Littner, who is recovering after being involved in an accident while riding an electric bicycle last year.

Watch: Strictly's Ugo Monye said it is 'selfish' not to get vaccinated