Coronavirus has entered a new stage in Britain in which it can no longer be contained and public health efforts must move towards delaying the spread, experts warned as cases rose sharply yesterday.
rime Minister Boris Johnson announced the Government was establishing a "war room" in the Cabinet Office, bringing together experts to respond to the growing crisis.
He indicated the situation would get worse before it gets better, and said there would "clearly" be more cases as the virus "spread a bit more".
A further 13 people tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, including the first case in Scotland. It brings the total to 36 - a 57pc increase and the largest rise to date.
Two of those diagnosed over the weekend had not come into contact with people from abroad, leading officials to fear the spread could be worse as patients are harder to trace.
Scientists said it may be too late to "stem the tide" and warned that preventing a concentrated epidemic was looking "increasingly unlikely".
Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, suggested entire cities could be closed to halt the spread and police could be used to force people to self-isolate in their homes.
The virus has now spread to 60 countries, infecting more than 88,000 people and killing more than 3,000, including one British man quarantined on a cruise ship in Japan.
Yesterday, US President Donald Trump said passengers from countries with a high risk of coronavirus would be screened before being allowed to travel to the US and again on arrival.
He announced the move on Twitter after the administration came under fire over its response to the outbreak.
Mr Trump tweeted: "In addition to screening travellers 'prior to boarding' from certain designated high-risk countries, or areas within those countries, they will also be screened when they arrive in America."
Such is the level of alarm in the US - where 74 cases have been confirmed - that Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, tweeted: "Seriously people - stop buying masks."
"They are not effective in preventing [the] general public from catching coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk."
Meanwhile, Iran said yesterday that its number of cases had risen by more than half - but experts say the real figure could be more than 18 times higher. Kianoush Jahanpour, a health ministry spokesman, put Iran's death toll at 54, with 978 confirmed cases.
However, it is claimed the real number of infections could be as high as 18,000.
Many cases have been traced to the pilgrimage city of Qom.
In Europe, the tourism industry is reeling from the effects of the virus. Cases have surged in Italy, and France closed the renowned Louvre Museum yesterday.
The number of countries hit by the virus has climbed past 60. New fronts in the outbreak opened rapidly over the weekend, deepening the sense of crisis that has sent financial markets plummeting, emptied the streets in many cities and rewritten the routines of millions of people.
Australia and Thailand reported their first Covid-19 deaths yesterday, while the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic recorded their first infections.
Italian officials said the number of people infected in the country soared 50pc to 1,694 in just 24 hours, and five more people died, bringing the death toll there to 34.
France raised its number of reported cases to 130, an increase of 30 from the day before, and said it has seen two deaths from the virus. (© Daily Telegraph, London)