Coronavirus: UK prepares for worst after jump in cases

Coronavirus cases in Britain have jumped as 12 new infections took the total to 35, with health minister Matt Hancock warning the government was preparing for the global epidemic to get worse.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the government's emergency response committee on Monday (local time).

It signals a stepping up in attempts to tackle a virus that began in China, where authorities estimate it has killed almost 3000 people worldwide.

"We've got a clear strategy for dealing with coronavirus - a very, very significant challenge," Hancock told Sky News on Sunday.

"We're also planning in case this gets worse, much worse."

If the virus becomes more widespread, the government will look at registering retired health workers to work again, and whether encouraging people to work at home could delay its peak until summer when the virus can be more easily dealt with.

Chief Medical Office Chris Whitty said that as of 9am local time on Sunday there had been 12 new positive tests in Britain, bringing the total to 35.

Of those new positive tests, three had been in close contact with an existing known case, six had recently travelled from Italy, and two from Iran.

They were investigating one case with no relevant travel, to find out how they caught the virus.

Johnson wrote in the Sun newspaper that it was right to be concerned about the possible spread of the virus, but said a visit to a British hospital had left him "100 percent confident in the medical resilience".