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ITV News journalist's coronavirus scare after reporting on outbreak from Hong Kong

An ITV News correspondent became the third prominent UK journalist forced to self-isolate over coronavirus fears last week after returning from reporting on the outbreak in Asia.

John Ray (pictured) revealed in a blog yesterday that he had been tested for coronavirus after returning from a two-week trip to Hong Kong and Japan and subsequently developing a “headache, a sore throat, and a bit of a cough and wheeze”.

The symptoms developed 12 days after his return to the UK, two days within the maximum estimated incubation period.

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Press Gazette understands Ray went into the ITV News office in London in the days before his symptoms developed – as permitted by the latest Government guidance.

The Department of Health and Public Health England are advising return travellers from Hong Kong and Japan to self-isolate only if they display symptoms such as a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, however mild.

In his blog, Ray said: “In the past, I’ve reported on Ebola, so I know the dangers of becoming an unwitting participant in such a story.

“So we’d taken precautions – facemasks, hand-sanitisers, soap and water and a safe distance from interviewees – and I felt fine. The medical advice was to resume my life – with family and friends – as before. Which is what I did.”

He revealed that after his “mild” symptoms appeared, he phoned NHS 111 on Monday of last week to be told that he was “no risk” as 15 days had elapsed since his return from the “danger area”.

But after he returned to the office again last Wednesday morning, he raced home after just hours as his young son was running a temperature.

After calling his local GP, who checked the latest Public Health England advice, Ray was told he and his son should self-isolate and get tested for coronavirus.

Ray wrote that his house was cordoned off last Friday afternoon as medical professionals arrived to carry take the required swabs, and that he then had to wait until Monday afternoon to find out that the test results were negative.

In the meantime, Ray said he mostly worried “what will happen if the worst is confirmed; what if I have inadvertently infected my family? And my friends.

“How many awkward conversations might lie ahead? How many names will I have to pass the team chasing contacts? Dozens, or more, I calculate grimly. In my head I’m compiling lists of names.”

ITV had another coronavirus scare at the weekend after a member of staff at Maidstone Studios in Kent, where regional news provider ITV News Meridian has a bureau, tested positive for the disease.

The broadcaster subsequently sent staff working at the base home as a “precautionary measure”.

Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow and his cameraman and producer are currently nine days through their 14-day self-isolation period after returning from a reporting trip to cover the Iran elections, where the outbreak has killed more than 90 people.

Writing for the Evening Standard yesterday, the symptomless Snow said he had left the house on his bike wearing a “massive balaclava to enable me to get out incognito… yes, it’s permitted so long as I keep pedalling and give people a wide berth”.

Despite using Facetime to cook alongside his wife and have a personal training session, Snow added that staying inside alone had proved “hard on the soul”.

Today presenter Nick Robinson was in a briefer self-isolation for two days last week while he awaited his own negative test results, having come back from holiday from Vietnam and Cambodia.

Some  journalists at Northcliffe House, home of the Metro, Mail, Standard and Independent newspapers, have been told their desks are scheduled to have a “deep clean” in an effort to prevent the spread of viruses.

Picture: ITV News

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