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.
This measure will rightly make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the countryDepartment of Health spokesman
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.
The British man who caught coronavirus in Singapore was diagnosed in Brighton and transferred to the specialist infectious diseases unit at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Thursday.
The five British nationals who have tested positive in France were diagnosed after they came into contact with him, according to the French health ministry.
The four adults and a nine-year-old child, who are not in a serious condition, were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc.
French officials said the British individual who was in Singapore returned on January 24 and stayed for four days in the area in eastern France, before returning to England on January 28.
Meanwhile, a British man in Majorca has also tested positive for coronavirus, while his wife and two daughters tested negative.
According to the government in the Balearic Islands, the family said they had been in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus in France.
Confirming the fourth UK case on Sunday, chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said the patient, who is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London, is “a known contact of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France”.
Professor Paul Hunter, professor in medicine, University of East Anglia, said on Sunday: “From today’s reports, this new case would appear to be linked to the cluster of cases in the French ski resort which is also linked to the case in Brighton.”
As of 2pm on Sunday, the Department of Health said a total of 795 coronavirus tests were concluded in the UK, with four testing positive and 791 confirmed negative.
Meanwhile, another plane carrying people evacuated from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday morning.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the flight had brought back 105 British nationals and family members, as well as 95 European nationals and family members.
Elsewhere, 60 more people on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama have tested positive for coronavirus, Japan’s health minister has said.
There are now 130 confirmed cases on the ship, with officials previously saying 70 people had the virus among the 3,711 passengers and crew.
More than 3,600 people, including 78 British passport holders, are still in a 14-day quarantine on board the ship.
British honeymooner Alan Steele, who was transferred from the cruise liner to hospital in Japan with coronavirus, was said to be feeling well and in good spirits over the weekend.
In the UK, a University of York student and their relative are still being treated at the Royal Victoria Infirmary infectious diseases centre in Newcastle.
There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China, while the death toll in China now stands at 908.
However, the number of newly-infected people per day has stabilised, reports suggest.