The Government has declared coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat to public health” as it introduced new powers to deal with the spread of the virus.
Under new measures announced on Monday, the Department of Health said people with coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave, and can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.
A spokesman said: “Our infection control procedures are world leading and the NHS is well prepared to deal with novel coronavirus.
“We are strengthening our regulations so we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety and if public health professionals consider they may be at risk of spreading the virus to other members of the public.
“This measure will rightly make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the country.”
It comes after a British man who caught coronavirus in Singapore appears to be linked to at least seven other confirmed cases in England, France and Spain.
Health officials are not confirming a link or giving detail on his relationship to the other people diagnosed with the illness, but he is reported to be a middle-aged British man and is understood to have been the first UK national to contract the disease.
There are now four confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, with this man having been the third to test positive.
Information on the Department of Health website says Health Secretary Matt Hancock has introduced the new powers in light of the “public health emergency” from coronavirus originating in Wuhan in China.
A statement says: “In accordance with Regulation 3, the Secretary of State declares that the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health, and the measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus.”
Arrowe Park Hospital on Merseyside and Kents Hill Park in Milton Keynes, both of which are housing Britons who have returned from Wuhan, are now designated “isolation facilities”, according to the Government.