Four cruise ship passengers flown to Britain on Saturday have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the UK to 13.
They were among a group of 30 Britons and two Irish citizens beginning a 14-day quarantine at Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.
The four patients caught the virus on board the Diamond Princess in Japan, England’s chief medical officer said.
They have now been transferred to specialist NHS infection centres.
It comes as 118 UK citizens and their family members rescued from Wuhan – the centre of the virus outbreak – ended their two-week isolation in Milton Keynes on Sunday.
The Department of Health said a “full infectious disease risk assessment” was done before Saturday’s repatriation flight from Japan, adding that no-one who boarded the flight had displayed any symptoms of the virus.
Separately, four Britons from the ship who recently tested positive for the new coronavirus were not on the flight.
They included David and Sally Abel, from Northamptonshire, who have since been diagnosed with pneumonia, according to their family and are being treated in a Japanese hospital.
Arrowe Park was previously used to isolate 83 British nationals who were flown back to the UK from Wuhan on the Foreign Office’s first evacuation flight in January.
Janelle Holmes, chief executive at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Trust reassured staff that the hospital was “running as usual”.
“When guests arrived yesterday evening, we followed clear guidance in relation to infection prevention control. This was to minimise the chance of any infection spreading.”
The evacuees had already spent two weeks in quarantine on board the cruise ship, but since then 600 passengers and crew have tested positive for the new virus, raising fears that the incubation period for the virus may be longer than originally thought.
Italy imposes lockdown
The new strain of coronavirus, which originated last year in Hubei province in China, causes a respiratory disease called Covid-19.
China has seen more than 76,000 infections and 2,442 deaths. The virus has since spread to at least 11 other countries.
Over the weekend, Italian officials imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern “hotspot” regions close to Milan and Venice, as the number of coronavirus cases soared to 130 – the worst outbreak in Europe.
Venice Carnival has been cut short, schools and museums closed and sporting events suspended as authorities struggle to contain the spread of the virus.
About 50,000 people cannot enter or leave several towns in Veneto and Lombardy for the next two weeks without special permission. Three people have died.
Elsewhere, authorities in South Korea and Iran are battling to control rising numbers of infections. South Korea has raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level”.