Two of the four people newly diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK are healthcare workers, Public Health England (PHE) has confirmed.
Eight people in the UK have now been diagnosed with the virus, with five of those closely linked to a businessman who was told he had it last week in Brighton.
In a statement, PHE medical director Yvonne Doyle said: “As a result of our contact tracing we now know the new cases announced today are all closely linked to one another.
“Our priority has been to speak to those who have close and sustained contact with confirmed cases, so we can advise them on what they can do to limit the spread of the virus.
“Two of these new cases are healthcare workers and as soon as they were identified, we advised them to self-isolate in order to keep patient contact to a minimum.
“We are now working urgently to identify all patients and other healthcare workers who may have come into close contact, and at this stage we believe this to be a relatively small number.”
The businessman diagnosed in Brighton contracted the virus at a conference in Singapore.
He stopped off at a chalet in a ski region of France, where five other Britons were subsequently taken ill with the virus, before heading back to the UK.
The Department of Health confirmed the four people newly-diagnosed contracted the virus in France and are being treated at specialist infection centres at St Thomas’ and the Royal Free hospitals in London.
The Guardian reported that the four people are three men, one of whom is a doctor, and one woman.
As the new cases were announced, the County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton closed its doors “because of an urgent operational health and safety reason”.
One of those newly-diagnosed is reported to be a health worker there.
People wearing protective full body suits and gloves were seen cleaning the centre in footage shared online on Monday.
In France, the five British nationals were diagnosed after they came into contact with the businessman, 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.
EasyJet confirmed that the businessman flew from Geneva back to the UK on January 28 on flight EZS8481, and Public Health England is trying to trace other passengers who might be at risk.
A fourth UK case, diagnosed on Sunday, who is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London, is also “a known contact of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France”, England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty said on Sunday.
The businessman is also linked to a British man in Majorca who tested positive for coronavirus, while his wife and two daughters tested negative.
Once back in the UK, the Brighton businessman visited The Grenadier pub in Hove, which said it has been told by Public Health England there is “minimal ongoing risk of infection to either guests or staff”.
The developments come as the Government declared coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat to public health”.
The transmission of coronavirus would constitute a serious threat - so I am taking action to protect the public and isolate those at risk of spreading the virus. (1/2)https://t.co/gE7YIofjl7— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) February 10, 2020
Announcing new legal powers on Monday, the Department of Health said people with coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined, and can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat.
The PA news agency understands that the decision was in response to one of the Britons who returned from Wuhan in China, the source of the coronavirus outbreak, attempting to leave isolation at Arrowe Park Hospital on Merseyside.
A Government source said “there was someone who was threatening to abscond from Arrowe Park”, despite all the Britons who returned on the evacuation flight signing a contract agreeing to a 14-day quarantine period, which ends this Thursday.
However, there have been concerns about whether those contracts are legally enforceable.
On Twitter, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Clinical advice has not changed about the risk to the public, which remains moderate.
“The transmission of coronavirus would constitute a serious threat – so I am taking action to protect the public and isolate those at risk of spreading the virus.”
Arrowe Park Hospital 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.
Meanwhile, another plane carrying people evacuated from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday morning, with people then taken to Kents Hill Park for 14 days of quarantine.
Elsewhere, British honeymooner Alan Steele is said to be feeling well and in good spirits after he was transferred from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama in Japan.
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.
British Airways has extended its suspension of flights serving Beijing and Shanghai.
The airline said on Monday that it has cancelled flights to and from the cities until March 31.
In a statement, the airline said: “We are contacting customers on cancelled flights so we can discuss their travel options, including rebooking onto other carriers where possible, full refunds or booking with BA for a later date of travel.
“Safety is at the heart of everything we do and we will keep the situation under review.”
Last week, Virgin Atlantic extended the suspension of its flights to mainland China by six weeks, saying it will not operate its Heathrow-Shanghai route until March 28.