THE U.K. Department of Health and Social Care said people with the coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave.
It named two British specialist hospitals in London as isolation facilities for those affected: Guy’s and St. Thomas’ and The Royal Free. It also designated the Chinese city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province where the virus first emerged as a “infected area.”
It said the number of virus cases in Britain has doubled to eight, with the four new cases reported Monday all known contacts of an earlier U.K. case, a person who was infected in France.
Experts at Public Health England were working hard to trace people who have come into contact with confirmed cases.
Britain has only eight of Europe’s 43 confirmed virus cases but it is a key travel hub between Asia and Europe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman described the announcement as a measure to strengthen regulations and said it does not mean the threat to the public has increased.
The change comes after a British man who caught the virus at a business conference in Singapore in January appears to be linked to at least seven other confirmed cases in Europe.
Five British citizens, including a 9-year-old boy, contracted the virus in the French Alpine ski town of Contamines-Montjoie after staying in the same chalet as the British man.
French medical authorities tested scores of children and their families Sunday from the area for the new virus and temporarily closed three nearby schools.