The move will give the government additional powers to fight the virus after one of the Brits held in isolation tried to flee quarantine.
The UK government has declared a serious and imminent threat to public health over Coronavirus as four more cases have been confirmed this morning – taking the UK total to eight.
The move was announced to give authorities tougher powers to keep people in quarantine after someone threatened to leave a centre.
A source said the declaration of an “imminent threat” was in relation to that very specific issue – and not the coronavirus itself.
Regulation 3 refers to the control of patient information relating to ‘communicable diseases’ – diseases that can spread from one person to another.
It also declared Wuhan and Hubei province in China as an “infected area”.
Under new measures, the Department of Health said people with coronavirus can now be forcibly quarantined and will not be free to leave, and can be forcibly sent into isolation if they pose a threat to public health.
A spokesman said: “Our infection control procedures are world leading and the NHS is well prepared to deal with novel coronavirus.
“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.”
This morning’s announcement comes after 60 more people onboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive.
Plane passengers have also been warned they could be infected with coronavirus thanks to a British businessman who it is feared has already passed it on to at least seven others.
The unnamed ‘super spreader’ has forced health authorities into a series of emergency tests of hundreds of people.
It comes after the man visited the UK and France from Singapore.
He apparently contracted the virus in the Asian country and fellow passengers on an easyJet flight to London Gatwick are just some of the scores of people being tracked down who he may have come into contact with.
The authorities are desperate to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, which has already killed over 900 people since December, and are in a race against time after the globe-trotting man fell ill on his return to the UK.
Pressure has been put on Public Health England to reveal exactly where the middle-aged man went and the full extent of the amount of people under observation.
From East Sussex, he took a four-day trip to the French Alps on his way home from a business trip to Singapore before boarding a flight back to the UK with 183 other passengers and six crew on January 28.
The man is believed to have contracted the virus during a conference last month.