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Coronavirus ‘imminent threat’ to public health

The UK government has announced new powers to fight the spread of coronavirus, saying it poses a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

People can now be forcibly quarantined or sent into isolation and will not be free to leave under the new measures.

However, the actual threat level announced by Public Health England last month remains “moderate”.

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 – but the number of newly-infected people per day has stabilised.

In a statement on Monday, 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 Wuhan, the city where the new coronavirus emerged.

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.

The BBC’s health editor Hugh Pym said the announcement “gives the legal underpinning to the quarantining of people back from Wuhan in Milton Keynes and the Wirral”.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “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 fourth person was diagnosed with coronavirus in the UK on Sunday, having caught the virus in France.

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BBC News – Health

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