THE UK has been warned that the widespread transmission of the coronavirus is “highly likely”.

Public Health England has issued the warning as the prime minister gathered his ministers for an emergency Cobra meeting.

Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of PHE, told BBC Breakfast: “I wouldn’t say (widespread infection) is inevitable, but it is now highly likely.”

The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed today that there are 40 cases of the coronavirus and 13,525 people have been tested.

The department release updates at 2pm each day. These figures were correct as of 9am on March 2.

Public Health England have advised schools to ask pupils who have recently returned from infected areas, such as northern Italy, to self-isolate and not return for 14 days.

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Public Health England tweeted a video asking people to wash their hands with soap, catch your cough or sneeze, and follow the traveller advice if you have recently returned to the country.

So far, no schools in the Salisbury area have reported that any pupils or staff have needed to self-isolate after showing symptoms of the virus.

Last Thursday, reports on social media of a coronavirus outbreak were also quashed by Salisbury District Hospital.

Posts on Facebook suggested there were people wearing hazmat suits in the accident and emergency department, and that it was no longer accepting patients. 

However, a spokesperson for the hospital rebuffed the rumours, adding that the A&E department was just "extremely busy".