People suffering flu-like symptoms could be ordered to ‘self-isolate’ for a fortnight if the number of coronavirus cases in the UK rises.
The dramatic government strategy comes after the global death toll hits 1,666 and an 80-year-old man in France became the first fatality from the infection in Europe.
Health officials are expected to change their course of action and order anyone with potential flu symptoms to remain at home if the virus is not contained, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
However this could spell havoc for workplaces with millions taking off two weeks if they are feeling under the weather.
Symptoms of the virus include a dry cough, fever and tiredness – many of which are also present for the common cold and flu.
Coronavirus isolation pods that have been put in place outside Addenbrooke’s A&E Department in Cambridge
A sign on the isolation pods outside Addenbrooke’s A&E Department in Cambridge. Yet if large numbers fall ill with mild symptoms there would be an increased risk of the virus spreading as isolation could not be maintained
The isolation pods outside Addenbrooke’s A&E Department in Cambridge are not yet operational
All NHS hospitals in England have been ordered to create secure pods to assess patients with suspected coronavirus
Senior managers have been informed that the NHS could stop testing patients once the number of UK cases reaches 100 and if there is evidence of ‘sustained transmission’ within the UK, the newspaper understands.
It comes after hospitals in the UK have made designated ‘isolation pods’ to ensure patients who are tested are kept away from others.
Pictures show pods outside Addenbrooke’s A&E Department in Cambridge which have been erected as a precautionary measure but are not yet operational.
Yet if large numbers fall ill with mild symptoms there would be an increased risk of the virus spreading as isolation could not be maintained.
The change of tack follows the announcement by French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn who confirmed the death of an elderly Chinese tourist, who travelled to the country from the Hubei province on January 16.
The victim, who was quarantined in Bichat hospital in Paris on January 25, leaves behind a daughter who is battling the infection but making a good recovery.
He died of a lung infection sparked by the bug which caused his condition to ‘rapidly deteriorate’.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called for ‘more international cooperation’ to ensure that the virus does not escalate into a global pandemic.
The World Health Organisation advises countries to do in-depth investigations of at least the first 100 confirmed cases of any pandemic.
Britain’s Pandemic Influenza Response Plan includes how the ‘first few 100 cases’ have protocols in place to ensure isolation and treatment to ensure medics can gather sufficient information about a new virus.
However the plan details how a different approach should be taken if there is ‘evidence of sustained community transmission’.
The number of people in the UK tested for the virus has quadrupled in the last week from 686 to a staggering 2,992.
The NHS tested 763 patients on Thursday alone despite the capacity being 1,000 per day.
Proffesor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told how the current approach by the health service aims to contain and delay the spread of the virus in a bid to ‘buy time’.
Seventy-eight Britons face being LEFT BEHIND on coronavirus quarantine cruise ship as the US prepares to air-lift ALL its 428 citizens back to America
The 78 Britons trapped aboard a coronavirus-blitzed cruise ship in Japan will watch their fellow American passengers evacuated home tomorrow, piling pressure on the UK government to take similar action.
Two US State Department-chartered planes will airlift their 428 stranded citizens from Yokohama, where the Diamond Princess liner has been docked in quarantine for 10 days and will remain locked-down until Wednesday.
Infections on the ship continue to climb and today jumped to 285 – up 67 in the last three days.
The number of cases on board the Diamond Princess liner has rise to 218 since it first docked
The US is to evacuate 428 Americans who have been trapped on board a cruise ship in Japan (Diamond Princess pictured, with Hazmat-suited drivers leaving port)
Paul and Cheryl Molesky, from Syracuse, New York, are among those being rescued tomorrow
Amid the spike in diagnoses of the killer virus, a source said the Foreign Office is ‘actively considering all options’, but has not yet confirmed a US-inspired airlift.
MailOnline understands government crisis teams stationed in London and Tokyo have been working to safeguard the wellbeing of British nationals, all of whom have been contacted by officials today.
Three of those infected are British nationals, including Wolverhampton honeymooner Alan Steele.
Three of those infected are British nationals, including Wolverhampton honeymooner Alan Steele (pictured with new wife Wendy)
Increasingly desperate to leave, two of the trapped Britons David and Sally Abel appealed to billionaire Richard Branson to send a plane to rescue them.
An Foreign Office spokesperson said: ‘We are urgently speaking to authorities in Japan and the UK.
‘We are working around the clock to ensure the welfare of the British nationals on board.’
The cruise ship initially had 3,700 passengers and crew, but during its quarantine in Yokahama some have been carted off the liner to be treated for the deadly infection.
Those diagnosed on board have been removed to local hospital, with people remaining on the ship told that their quarantine would be over on February 19, two weeks from when it officially began.
But a message broadcast on the ship by the captain on Saturday night local time cast doubt on that timeline.
The captain said: ‘The Japanese government has informed us that they may start a new testing process for guests beginning February 18,’ and warned it could take several days.
‘So guests who are tested on February 18 and have negative test results may be able to disembark beginning February 21,’ the message said.
Those who had close contact with anyone who tested positive would have to restart their quarantine from the date of their last close contact, he added.
When the US launched a similar rescue mission for its citizens trapped in Wuhan, it prompted the UK to follow their lead and also send a plane.
Tomorrow, the Americans will be flown to Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, California, they will undergo a further 14 days of quarantine, sparking ‘apprehension’ among passengers.
Paul and Cheryl Molesky, from Syracuse, New York, are among those being rescued tomorrow.
Asked how they felt about being evacuated, Ms Molesky said they were a ‘bit apprehensive’ about again being quarantined on arrival to the US.
She told Sky News: ‘We are relieved but we’re still a little bit shocked…
‘We found out that we’re going to have to be quarantined for an additional 14 days in the United States, so there’s some mixed emotions there.
Mr Molesky added: ‘Because of the speed of what has happened here this last half hour we’re a little dizzy.
The couple also paid tribute to the Japanese government and the Diamond Princess staff for making their stay ‘very comfortable’.
The US embassy in Tokyo said in a letter to passengers that the aircraft would arrive in Japan on the evening of February 16 and that it recommended ‘out of an abundance of caution’ that US citizens disembark and return home for further monitoring.
The passengers would be required to undergo further quarantine of 14 days upon arriving in the United States.
‘We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease,’ the letter said.
‘Should you choose not to return on this charter flight, you will be unable to return to the United States for a period of time.’
‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make a final determination on this matter.’
The cruise ship initially had 3,700 passengers and crew on board and was put under a two quarantine on February 5