Great Britain

Coronavirus: NHS fears 50% of Brits could be hit by deadly virus if China fails to control spread

MILLIONS of Brits with flu-like symptoms could be ordered to stay at home for a fortnight to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Emergency laws could be introduced requiring people to self-isolate or face punishment if the number of confirmed cases tops 100.

It comes as a health expert claimed 50 per cent of the population will be affected if Chinese efforts to control the virus fail.

The Department of Health said yesterday that 3,109 people in the UK had been tested with only nine coming back as positive.

Just one remains in hospital.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “evidence of how well prepared” the NHS was to deal with the virus.

But yesterday, it emerged that health chiefs were ready to take drastic action if the number of cases creeps over 100.

A Department of Health source said a law making sufferers quarantine themselves “may be the only way to stop the virus spreading far and wide”.

The source added: “Actually forcing people to self-isolate would require emergency new laws, but it’s certainly within the realms of possibility.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said it was a “distinct possibility” every other Brit could be affected if China fails to curb the spread.


He added: “It doesn’t mean to say everybody is going to be seriously ill.

"The vast majority would have mild illness, a cough and a cold, then recover and be perfectly well.”

Hospitals have created “isolation pods” to keep those being tested away from other patients.

The first death from the virus in Europe was recorded in France on Saturday.

And a Brit in hospital in Lyon was also confirmed at the weekend as having the bug.

Brit tourist, including kids, have also been tested for the coronavirus at an Italian airport.

Families arriving in Trieste on the Adriatic for their half-term break were met with officials in hazmat suits taking temperatures.

Holidaymakers have to show they are not feverish before heading to passport control.

The Italians started testing passengers from international and domestic flights earlier this month in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

The death toll in mainland China had risen by 142 last night but the number of new cases there fell for a third day running.

The worlwide toll is 1,670, nearly all in China.

More than 69,000 have been infected.

China reports 2,641 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, 143 new deaths