London, Feb 10 : The UK government on Monday declared the deadly coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat” to public health, as it announced new powers to fight its spread.
Under the measures, people can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave, the BBC reported.
In a statement, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Arrowe Park Hospital, on the Wirral, and Kents Hill Park conference centre, in Milton Keynes, have been designated as “isolation” facilities in the UK.
It comes after the Foreign Office chartered two repatriation flights out of the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.
On Sunday, around 200 British and foreign nationals evacuated on the UK’s final rescue flight arrived at RAF Brize Norton.
Evacuees were taken to Kents Hill Park for 14 days of quarantine. Britons evacuated on an earlier flight from Wuhan are currently in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital.
A Department of Health spokesman said on Monday: “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.”
There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China, with four so far in the UK.
The total number of deaths in China is now 908.