Philip Jansen, the chief executive of BT, has been diagnosed with the coronavirus four days after attending an event with the new culture secretary and the heads of rival telecoms companies.
Mr Jansen, 53, was diagnosed with the virus on Thursday afternoon and immediately isolated himself. He will continue to run the business remotely while the staff around him will self isolate themselves until next week.
The diagnosis comes after the CEO attended a meeting at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in Westminster on Monday in order to sign a deal with his rivals and the government to improve connectivity in rural areas. The meeting was attended by Oliver Dowden, the new culture secretary, as well as the chief executives of O2, Vodafone UK, Three and trade bodies representing the mobile industry.
BT informed all attendees of the meeting of Mr Jansen’s positive diagnosis on Thursday evening.
Mark Evans, the head of O2, said he felt fine but would self-isolate after being informed about Mr Jansen. Based in Slough, O2 has not had any confirmed cases.
Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK’s chief executive, feels “completely fine” according to a spokesman who said he would nonetheless self-isolate as a precaution rather than working from its Newbury or London offices.
Numerous senior BT employees will also work from home having been in contact with Mr Jansen in recent days.
The telecoms sector is set to play a vital role in dealing with the crisis as potentially millions of staff work from home and put a strain on the capacity of residential broadband networks.
The potential spread of the virus among the sector’s top executives is not expected to disrupt planning for the rise in broadband demand with data usage rising by more than two-thirds in Italy after the lockdown according to Telecom Italia.
Mr Jansen said that the symptoms he had experienced were “relatively mild” and he does not expect any disruption to the business.
BT has been allowing staff to work from home this week.
Mr Jansen was appointed to the board of BT in January 2019 as an executive director and took over from Gavin Patterson as chief executive the following month.
On Thursday shares in BT crashed 12 per cent in line with the market sell-off. They closed at 107.25p, the lowest level since 2009.
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