Military could be called in as number of UK coronavirus cases rises to 51, Government says

The military could be brought in and up to a fifth of the UK’s workforce could be in quarantine during a UK coronavirus epidemic, the Government has announced.

It comes after the number of confirmed cases in the UK rose from 39 to 51 today.

A woman wears a protective face mask as fears over coronavirus grow.. (Photo: Getty Images)

A woman wears a protective face mask as fears over coronavirus grow.. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Government has outlined its plans in the event of Covid-19 becoming widespread across the country.

In a statement, it said that police may need to focus on only the most serious crimes and maintaining public order if the virus spreads and that the military could also provide support to emergency services if needed.

The government's response is in its first stage - containing the outbreak – but It is "highly likely" the UK will see further infection than at present, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned.

Non-urgent hospital care may be delayed to focus on treating those who are infected, while recently retired doctors and nurses may be called back to work.

It is predicted one fifth of workers could be infected if the virus reaches a peak.

Other possible measures include school closures, reducing large-scale gatherings, cancelling sporting events and working from home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was committed to doing "everything possible" to "prepare for all eventualities" and its priority was keeping the country safe.

Speaking in the House of Commons later, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was "becoming more likely we will see widespread transmission" of the virus across the UK.

He said that tackling the spread was "a national effort", adding: "We need everyone to listen to and act on official medical advice."

About 90,000 people have been infected globally since the outbreak of Covid-19, with cases in more than 50 countries and more than 3,000 deaths.

While the vast majority of patients in the UK will have a mild to moderate illness, similar to seasonal flu, a minority will require hospital care and a small proportion could die, the government's plans warn.

Locally, there have been cases in Leeds, Bradford, York and Buxton with some patients being treated in Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.