Nine’s drastic response to virus scare


Today host Karl Stefanovic this morning addressed Nine's coronavirus scare on-air, admitting he'd be "lying if we didn't say there was some level of concern."

The mounting coronavirus pandemic took an unexpected turn on Thursday when A-list actor Tom Hanks revealed that he and wife Rita Wilson had both tested positive for the deadly virus.

The couple are staying on the Gold Coast, where Hanks is filming an Elvis Presley biopic. They had on Monday visited Nine's Sydney studios so Wilson could appear on Today Extra with hosts David Campbell and Belinda Russell.


Karl and Ally address the coronavirus scare.
Karl and Ally address the coronavirus scare.

Stefanovic opened the show this morning by acknowledging Thursday had been "a really big day for us here on the Today show."

"I would be lying if we didn't say there wasn't some concern, a level of concern here at Channel 9 yesterday afternoon, but I think that everyone here at Nine in terms of management has handled it in an incredibly brilliant way," he said.

Stefanovic and co-host Ally Langdon then took viewers for a walk backstage at the Nine studios, retracing Wilson's steps and explaining that furniture in her dressing room had since been replaced.

Karl and Ally retrace Rita Wilson's steps.
Karl and Ally retrace Rita Wilson's steps.

"They did a lot of cleaning in here as well. They came in, sanitised the area and they shut the dressing-room down and Tracy (Grimshaw) wasn't on the air last night too because there is a couple of common people that she may have contact with. Effectively Rita was in this room with about three or four people, including a makeup artist who has gone into self quarantine as a result of that."



Karl and Ally check in with their colleagues.
Karl and Ally check in with their colleagues.

Stefanovic and Langdon then checked in with Campbell and Russell, who have both gone into self-isolation since news broke that Wilson had been infected. The actress and singer-songwriter joined the hosts for a seven-and-a-half minute interview on the Today Extra panel during Monday's episode.

Russell revealed that she'd found the coronavirus test - involving an 8cm swab put up each nostril - a surprisingly painful experience.

"It really surprised me how painful it was. The nurse did say to me, 'Now, this is going to be painful and you'll cry.' I thought, "I've had three babies, so let's see. Surely it won't be that painful that I'm not going to cry." But it was surprising to me. It's quick, but it kind of stings a little bit and it kind of stings a little bit and it goes in quite a way."

Campbell criticised the Federal and State government for their response to the crisis, saying "they need to fix their messaging."

"It is also fixing the messaging on how long you need to isolate and contact as you have tried to clear up this morning. Self-isolation is where you have to lock yourself down. I can't leave my home now for what seems like 14 days on the advice of the Royal North Shore Hospital and the fantastic nurses there," said Campbell, who said he was also practicising "self-distancing" at home, staying away from his wife and children.


Belinda Russell during her test.
Belinda Russell during her test.


David Campbell on The Today Show.
David Campbell on The Today Show.

The pair said they expected to receive the results of their tests within 72 hours.

Several Channel 9 staff members have been sent home in the wake of the news.

Nine's entertainment editor and Weekend Today host Richard Wilkins also told the station he would "take a couple of days off" after he had spent time with Wilson during her visit to Sydney this week.

Wilkins said he had met with Wilson backstage during her performance at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday night in a "fairly confined space", but said he was "in and out pretty quickly". He added the pair didn't shake hands during that meeting.

Wilkins said he had taken himself to Royal North Shore hospital today to be tested, "half out of curiosity, half to set my mind at ease", and had been encouraged by his bosses to take some time off.

"I'm going to take that advice," he said.

The spokesperson added arrangements for hosts for Today Extra were still being confirmed.

"Nine today has taken action in line with our crisis response plan around a visit to our studio by Ms Rita Wilson on Monday this week, for an appearance on Today Extra with David Campbell and Belinda Russell," a Nine spokesperson said.

"Our actions are in line with the guidelines set out by the Government and Health Authorities. "Those who were in prolonged contact with Ms Wilson have been tested and are self-isolating for 14 days.

"Our premises is currently being thoroughly cleaned in all areas she visited and we are encouraging our employees to monitor their health and practice good hygiene."

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