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March 12, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:02am

Coronavirus: News UK cleaning communal areas every 30 minutes after Times journalist tests positive

By Charlotte Tobitt and Freddy Mayhew

Times staff have not been advised to work from home despite one of the newspaper’s journalists testing positive for coronavirus (Covid-19).

But lifts, toilets and communal areas at the News Building, the London Bridge headquarters of Times parent company News UK, are now being cleaned every half an hour.

News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks told staff by email yesterday that it was safe for them to be in the building, per Government guidelines.

The journalist who has tested positive for Coronavirus was last in the newsroom on Monday 2 March.

“We are following advice from Public Health England and at this stage there is no need to ask any other employees to leave The News Building,” said Brooks. “We will constantly review this advice and take appropriate measures”

She added: “The health and safety of our staff is paramount.”

Brooks went on to explain how the “cleaning regime has been stepped up” at all News UK offices.

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“Lifts, WCs and common areas are being cleaned every 30 minutes and you will see deep cleaning going on,” she wrote.

“Please continue to clear your desk at the end of each day so that all surfaces can be cleaned effectively and remember that the best piece of advice remains to wash hands frequently.”

Brooks said the News Building has also put visitor restrictions on anyone who has recently travelled from certain countries like Iran and Italy as outlined by the Foreign Office.

Many other media organisations are imposing similar restrictions.

Times editor John Witherow emailed staff last night but did not address the possibility of them working from home.

He said: “We are speaking to staff so we can find out who they had contact with. Our priority is the well-being of all of you and we are constantly reviewing the best course of action.”

He added: “We wish our missing colleague all the best and a full recovery.”

Witherow pointed anyone with concerns to speak to the Times managing editors and said any staff members with symptoms should isolate themselves immediately, call the NHS 111 helpline and let their manager know.

Symptoms of coronavirus include coughing, shortness of breath and a fever, according to the NHS.

As of yesterday there were 456 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, with eight deaths connected to it in Britain.

A Financial Times staff member who was tested for coronavirus after developing “symptoms of illness”, one of which is associated with the disease, has not yet received their results, Press Gazette understands.

Many UK newsrooms are preparing to work from home and have banned all but essential travel in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The Telegraph has told staff they can now work from home if they want to, with the newsdesk set to work from home on alternate days, although those running live blogs need to go into the office.

Huffpost UK editor-in-chief Jess Brammar told BBC Radio 4’s Media Show yesterday that some of her staff were now working from home because they had concerns about commuting every day, while others are doing so because of “seasonal sniffles”.

“I think what we have to do, all of us, is say if you have any concerns, if you don’t want to commute, that’s fine, you can work from home,” she said.

“I’m very lucky – I run a completely digital newsroom, we are totally able to run the site with everybody at home.”

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