“Millions” of Britons with flu-like symptoms could be told by authorities to “self-isolate” by staying at home for a fortnight if the UK’s number of coronavirus cases rises passed 100, it has been reported.
The Sunday Telegraph said senior NHS managers have been told that the service will stop testing for the strain known as Covid-19 “once around 100 cases have been confirmed” across Britain.
Eight of the nine people diagnosed with the virus in the UK have since left hospital after two negative tests for Covid-19, with the paper reporting hospitals have in the last week made “isolation pods” to keep those being tested away from other patients.
If the number of cases rises significantly those with coughs and colds may have to stay home to limit the chance of the outbreak spreading.
The Department of Health and Social Care did not comment when asked about the self-isolation direction.
As of Saturday, 2,992 people in the UK have been tested with 2,983 confirmed as negative and nine positive, the department said.
Earlier, an NHS spokesman said all 94 people in quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral had been released.
They had been kept in isolation at the hospital after returning to the UK from China – the centre of the outbreak.
More than 100 people remain at the Kents Hill Park Hotel in Milton Keynes, the NHS added.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am also pleased that eight of the nine individuals who tested positive for coronavirus have now been successfully treated and discharged from hospital.
“I want to stress that any individuals who are discharged from hospital are now well and do not pose any public health risk to the public.”
“Again, this is evidence of how well prepared our NHS is to deal with the Wuhan coronavirus.
The NHS also received praise from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in The Sunday Telegraph, where he described it as a “centre of excellence”.
Mr Raab added that the UK played its “key role” through training “rapid response teams” and local medics to fight the virus in Asia and Africa, investing £40m in vaccine and virus research, and donating £5-million to a World Health Organisation appeal.
The “emerging crisis” of the outbreak also led Mr Raab to praise “co-operation abroad” as “the answer to tackling coronavirus”.
“No single country can overcome, or fully defend against the threat that coronavirus presents,” he wrote.
“The international community must work together.”
His column followed the confirmation in France of the first death from the virus outside Asia.
French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said an elderly Chinese tourist had become the first death to the virus in Europe, Reuters reported on Saturday.
The patient, a Chinese tourist from the province of Hubei who had arrived in France on January 16, had a lung infection caused by the virus.
In mainland China, the death toll from Covid-19 passed 1,600 after health authorities reported another 142 deaths early on Saturday morning.
That increase saw the total reach 1,665 deaths.
However, authorities also said the latest 2,009 daily new cases of the virus had fallen for the third straight day.
The total number of confirmed cases globally now stands at more than 68,000.