- Health Secretary Matt Hancock says coronavirus is ‘serious and imminent threat’ to the British public
- The announcement will give the government powers to forcibly quarantine victims
- Powers are brought in after a Briton staying at Arrowe Park hospital tried to flee before his isolation ended
- It comes as there are now eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK, five of whom are linked
Police in the UK have been given the power to seize people in danger of spreading coronavirus and force them into isolation in handcuffs, the government announced today.
A new law was hurriedly brought into force after a patient staying at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral reportedly tried to leave before completing the 14-day stay after his return from China.
Government sources said those who returned to the UK on the evacuation flights on January 31 were given a ‘very clear choice’ and had to sign contracts saying they would remain in isolation for a fortnight.
But a source involved with the Arrowe Park incident said: ‘We found we didn’t have the necessary enforcement powers to make sure they didn’t leave.’
Police will now be able to force people to remain in the units and, if they leave, to arrest them for committing an offence and take them back to the quarantine facility, MailOnline understands.
And they will also be allowed to hunt down and capture people if they ‘may be infected or contaminated [and] could present a risk to public health’.
This extraordinary power comes after footage from China showed a team of around a dozen security officials chasing a suspected coronavirus patient through the streets in a bid to catch them.
England today announced its fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth cases of the virus in Brighton – all of the three men and a woman are linked to the fourth patient, who has now been dubbed a ‘super-spreader’.