The British government introduced emergency powers, including forcible quarantine, on Monday in response to the ‘imminent threat’ from the novel coronavirus that has infected at least 40,000 people worldwide.

The government confirmed four more infections with the virus in Britain on Monday, bringing the total to eight.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has made regulations ‘to ensure that the public are protected as far as possible from the transmission of the virus,’ the health ministry said in a statement.

It said Hancock declared that the coronavirus epidemic ‘constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health, and the measures outlined in these regulations are considered as an effective means of delaying or preventing further transmission of the virus.’  The four new cases in Britain are all ‘known contacts of a previously confirmed UK case, and the virus was passed on in France,’ Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

Whitty was apparently referring to a British man who was infected in Singapore and passed the virus to others after travelling to a ski chalet in France.

Several British citizens have also been infected in China and on a cruise ship off Japan.