The number of people infected by the coronavirus in the UK has doubled to eight – after four more patients tested positive for the virus.

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It comes as the government issued new powers in England to keep people in quarantine to stop the virus spreading.

In order to do this the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

The overall risk level to the UK remains “moderate”.

There have been more than 40,000 cases of the virus globally, mostly in China. The total number of deaths in China is now 908 – but the number of newly-infected people per day has stabilised.

The new cases are all linked to a British man who caught the virus at a conference in Singapore and stopped at a ski resort in France before returning to the UK. He was diagnosed in Brighton, and is being treated at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

He is also linked to the fourth UK patient, who was exposed to the virus in France, while five British nationals tested positive in France following his trip to the ski resort.

Confirming the four new cases on Monday, chief medical officer for England Prof Chris Whitty said they were all “known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France”.

He added that they have been transferred to specialist NHS centres at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the Royal Free hospitals in London.

On Monday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had introduced new regulations in England as “the transmission of coronavirus would constitute a serious threat”.

The BBC’s political correspondent Iain Watson said the measures were announced because a passenger on the first UK flight from Wuhan, who is currently being held in quarantine on the Wirral, “is threatening to abscond”.

“Currently the regulations are not strong enough to stop him leaving before the 14-day period is up so they brought in these new regulations to try and compel him to stay put,” he said.

The Department of Health insisted on Twitter that the latest announcement on the coronavirus threat to the public was “a legal term which we announced this morning as part of changes to make it easier for health professionals to do their job”.

A government 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.”


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