Britain now has 87 confirmed coronavirus cases – with 36 more reported on Wednesday – as health officials issue some of the most sobering warnings yet.
Thirty-six new cases have been reported since 9am on Tuesday – 32 in England, two in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland.
The UK saw its biggest day-on-day increase as England's chief medical officer said some Britons will probably die during the outbreak.
Hospitals are bracing for a rapid increase in the number of cases in the coming days and weeks, with Professor Chris Whitty warning that a large outbreak now seems inevitable.
Most of the latest infections were transmitted abroad, but Professor Whitty warned that community transmission is undoubtedly already occurring and will lead to a surge in cases.
Here is a summary of the latest coronavirus headlines on Wednesday.
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Where are the latest cases?
* A woman in her 30s who works at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, and her husband.
Colin Cox, director of public health at Cumbria County Council, said two Carlisle residents had tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from a trip to northern Italy.
He said: "Since returning from their trip they have self-isolated. The member of staff did not come into work and has not had any contact with patients.
"The level of risk to the public has not changed and remains low. There is no need for anyone to cancel medical appointments."
* A London-based Deloitte employee.
A floor at Deloitte’s London office on New Street Square, in Holborn, was cleared and was undergoing a deep clean.
A Deloitte spokesperson said: “One of the floors in our offices has recently been impacted, with a member of staff being confirmed with Covid-19 after returning from a personal trip to Asia. The member of staff is now in hospital and receiving good care."
* A patient who was admitted to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
A spokesman for the health and social care system in Manchester said: "[Wythenshawe Hospital] remains open and we would ask that people keep their appointments and attend unless they are unwell. Please note the risk from the virus for the majority of people is low."
* A pupil at Kingston Academy in south-west London.
* A patient in Grampian in Scotland.
* A patient in Ayrshire in Scotland.
* Two cases confirmed in South Ribble, Lancashire.
* Two further cases in Northern Ireland, bringing the total there to three.
A Department of Health statement said: Testing of patients in Northern Ireland has resulted in two further presumptive positive results for coronavirus (Covid-19), bringing the total to three since testing began.
"In line with established protocols, these Northern Ireland test outcomes have been sent to Public Health England laboratories for verification.
"The two cases are not connected. One individual recently travelled from Northern Italy. The other had recent contact with a person elsewhere in the UK who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
"Both patients are adults and are receiving appropriate care. Public Health Agency personnel are working rapidly to identify contacts they may have had, with the aim of preventing further spread."
* Students at Goldsmiths in south London have been informed that a visitor to one of the university's halls of residences had tested positive for the coronavirus.
In an email, the university said the person was "being looked after" and that the student they were staying with is "self-isolating as a precautionary measure".
* Three cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Trafford, Greater Manchester.
The three people had all travelled to northern Italy, a statement on the Trafford Council website said.
These cases are not related to the patient at Wythenshawe Hospital who tested positive for the virus.
* A case of coronavirus was also confirmed in Oldham, Greater Manchester.
Biggest day-on-day increase as cases soar to 87
The UK has seen its biggest day-on-day increase in coronavirus cases, with 87 people now confirmed to have the virus.
Amid further reports of panic buying at shops, three of the 29 new cases in England were passed on in the UK, raising fears that community transmission may now be taking hold.
Prof Whitty said: "Twenty-nine patients [in England] were diagnosed who had recently travelled from recognised countries or from recognised clusters which were under investigation.
"Three additional patients contracted the virus in the UK and it is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad. This is being investigated and contact tracing has begun."
The two new Scottish coronavirus cases are from the Grampian and Ayrshire areas, the Scottish Government said.
Both patients are described as "currently clinically well".
One patient has recently travelled to northern Italy. The other has had contact with a known positive case, although officials said it was not with the first positive case in Scotland, a patient in Tayside.
Scotland's Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: "Our first thoughts must be with the patients diagnosed with coronavirus, I wish them a full and speedy recovery."
Professor Whitty warned that some Britons will probably die from coronavirus during an outbreak that will last up to six months.
He said a large epidemic is looking "likely", but it is "very unlikely" that entire cities or towns will be locked down.
He is expecting a "significant" increase in the number of cases in the coming days and weeks.
Onward transmission between people in the UK – which could lead to spiralling numbers – is undoubtedly happening already, he added.
"Extreme" measures may have to be taken to protect the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions.
NHS 'can cope with large epidemic'
Professor Whitty said the NHS would be able to cope with a major spread of cases but could come under "very high pressure" in a large epidemic.
Video conference consultations might be used as a way to relieve pressure on the NHS, he added.
Professor Whitty said the NHS would look to retired doctors for help, as well as "getting doctors doing one kind of a job doing another kind of the job".
The NHS has declared a level 4 incident – the highest level – and the Government has launched a new campaign to encourage people to take simple steps to protect themselves.
Professor Whitty had earlier predicted that up to 80 per cent of Britons could be infected and one per cent of the infected could die in a worst case scenario.
Government scientific experts predict the UK's coronavirus outbreak could last around four to six months.
PM announces sick pay after pressure
The Prime Minister announced new sick pay changes as part of emergency coronavirus legislation so that anyone self-isolating is paid from day one rather than day four as current rules state.
Boris Johnson told MPs that people who self-isolate are "helping to protect all of us by slowing the spread of the virus".
He added: "If they stay at home and if we ask people to self-isolate, they may lose out financially.
"So, I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules, and I think that's the right way forward.
"Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing."
Coronavirus-related racism in schools
Teachers of Chinese and other ethnic minority origin are being subjected to racist name-calling, "banter" and intimidation in schools as fears of the coronavirus spread, a union has warned.
The NASUWT teachers' union said reports by its members of abuse, prejudice, xenophobia and racism in schools have increased since the outbreak reached the UK.
The union said there had been a report of groups of pupils playing an "unsavoury" game of tag named after the coronavirus.
In letters to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the NASUWT union warned of pupils and school staff being verbally and physically abused on "grounds that appear to be racially motivated".
Events and graduations cancelled
Several events have been cancelled and graduation ceremonies postponed due to coronavirus fears.
The London Book Fair at Olympia from March 10 to 12 was scrapped after major publishers pulled out.
Buckingham University and the University of London said they had taken a "difficult" decision to call off ceremonies this month to minimise the risks to students and their guests.
Fears of first human-to-dog transmission
Animal health experts said the quarantined dog of a coronavirus patient in Hong Kong could be the first case of human-to-animal transmission, although they cautioned the matter remained under investigation.
The dog has tested "weak positive" for the virus which indicates a low level of infection, the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said.
"The department will continue to closely monitor the dog … and repeat the test later. It will only be returned to its owner when the test result is negative," an AFCD statement said.
Killer virus mutates into second, more contagious strain
Chinese scientists have said they have found two main types of the new coronavirus could be causing infections.
The researchers said a preliminary study found a more aggressive strain of the new virus associated with the outbreak that surfaced in Wuhan in December.
The Wuhan outbreak accounted for about 70 per cent of analysed strains, while 30 per cent was linked to a less aggressive type.
The prevalence of the more aggressive strain decreased after the first few days or weeks of January, according to the study.
Italy considers closing schools as cases soar around world
Italy's government is considering closing all schools and universities in a desperate bid to control the outbreak.
Almost 80 people have died in that country, which is the worst affected in Europe.
A first case of coronavirus has been detected among staff at the Council of the European Union, a spokesman said.
Deaths in Iran soared to 92, according to an official government tally, and Iraq reports its first fatality.
The number of infections in Japan climbed above 1,000
Globally, eight new countries – Andorra, Jordan, Latvia, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Tunisia – have reported cases of coronavirus since Tuesday.
There are now more than 90,000 cases worldwide with more than 3,000 deaths.
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