The government is set to announce on Thursday that it is stepping up its response to the coronavirus.
The UK is expected to move from the “containment” phase of the outbreak to “delay” at the government’s emergency Cobra committee.
“Containment” aims to halt the spread of the disease but “delay” seeks to slow its progression.
It comes after the World Health Organization labelled the outbreak of the disease a pandemic.
Earlier, a cabinet minister, who the BBC is not naming, and health minister Edward Argar were confirmed as being in self-isolation after coming into contact with Conservative colleague Nadine Dorries, who has tested positive for the virus.
Thursday’s emergency Cobra committee meeting will be chaired by the PM, a day after the UK saw its biggest rise in cases – up to 460, with two more deaths, bringing the total to eight.
The UK’s strategy on responding to the virus has three phases: Containment, delay, mitigation and – running alongside these – research.
Delay is the stage where “social distancing” measures will be considered – which could include restrictions on public gatherings above a certain number of people, although this is not thought likely at this stage.
The move could also result in people who show even minor signs of respiratory tract infections or fever soon being told to self-isolate.
The delay phase aims to lower the peak impact of the virus and push it away from the winter season – when pressures on the NHS are more acute because of issues including seasonal flu.
Delaying the impact of the outbreak could also buy time for the testing of drugs and initial development of vaccines and/or improved therapies or tests to help reduce the impact of the disease.
The emergency Cobra committee last met on Monday, when it was decided the UK should remain in the containment phase.
The unnamed cabinet minister and Mr Edagar were confirmed as having gone into self-isolation after coming into contact with Ms Dorries at a Downing Street reception.
The cabinet minister is awaiting the results of a coronavirus test, while Mr Argar, a colleague of Ms Dorries, self-isolated on the advice of officials.
Self-isolating is the advice currently being given to people who have recently returned from affected countries or have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the virus.
It means staying at home, not going to work, school or other public places, and avoiding public transport or taxis, in an attempt to avoid spreading the virus.
On Wednesday, in his first Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged billions of pounds of investment to get the country through the coronavirus outbreak.
He also said the NHS would get “whatever resources it needs”.