The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has declared the Coronavirus outbreak a "serious and imminent threat" to public health, as the number of confirmed UK cases rose from four to eight on Monday.

Under new measures announced by the Government, people with Coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and could be sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.

Anyone placed in isolation, including those who returned at the weekend on a Government-chartered plane from Hubei province in China where the outbreak began, are required to remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Guidance for GPs was updated at the end of last week saying the virus is most likely to be seen in travellers returning from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, or Thailand; it previously only mentioned mainland China.

Practices have been given advice about isolating patients and seeking specialist support, as well as information on cleaning, should a patient suspected of having the virus attend the surgery.

Further updates on Friday advised practices that once a patient has been isolated they should be asked to phone NHS111 on their mobile phone if they have one.

This follows the closure of a GP practice in Brighton as public health officials confirmed that two out of four new UK cases of coronavirus reported on Monday were healthcare workers. Two practices, covering almost 17,000 patients and operating from the County Oak Medical Centre in Brighton, were closed along with their branch surgeries.

At least one report suggested both of the staff were GPs. The NHS has begun an urgent search for patients and other staff who may have been in close contact.

England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "The new cases are all known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France."

The DHSC said that the risk to the public has not changed and remains moderate, however the measures were "considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus".

The statement from the DHSC said: "We are strengthening our regulations so that we can keep individuals in supported isolation for their own safety. This measure will rightly make it easier for health professionals to help keep people safe across the country."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "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. Clinical advice has not changed about the risk to the public, which remains moderate. We are taking a belt and braces approach to all necessary precautions to ensure public safety."

Last reviewed 11 February 2020