CCTV cameraman falls ill on Guangdong assignment

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 12:00am

A 32-year-old cameraman from state-run broadcaster CCTV has reportedly contracted Sars after being sent on assignment to Guangdong.

News of the cameraman's illness caused panic at CCTV's Beijing headquarters. Staff grabbed surgical masks, cleaners disinfected offices throughout the 22 floors, and senior producers were told to budget for spending on health care.

According to senior CCTV officials, the cameraman caught the virus in a Guangdong hospital after undergoing an operation to remove his appendix. It could not be confirmed whether he had been covering the outbreak of Sars in the province, but sources at the station noted he had been sent there around the time a World Health Organisation team arrived from Beijing.

His condition is not known, as officials have refused to release his details to staff, but he is believed to be recovering at a Beijing hospital.

Staff were clearly upset. 'It is really scary,' said one anchorwoman. 'There is panic here. The senior editors are all admitting a cameraman has Sars, but no one seems to want to tell us what we should do - whether we should wear a mask or stay at home or if it is safe to come to work.'

Another staff member said: 'We are all looking at other people and thinking 'have you got it?''

The irony, she said, was that the news team had been told to put a 'positive spin' on Sars coverage.

The central government, via state-run TV and newspapers, has been reporting only 22 cases of the fatal pneumonia in Beijing, and four deaths.