The disease is now thought to have killed more than 130 people in China, with almost 6,000 infected across 17 different countries.
With scientists across the world still scrambling to develop ways to contain and reverse the outbreak, as well as understand its causes, NHS bosses have tried to reassure the public they already have measures to deal with contagious illnesses.
“It’s a rapidly evolving situation, the guidance keeps changing, but there are contingencies in place,” said Dr Deb Wilson, a public health consultant.
“Our key actions are to support people returning from areas which might be affected and to have the NHS prepared to respond to people who report illness who have been to the affected areas.
“The case definition of people we’re testing is people who have returned from Wuhan in the last 14 days and nationally there’s been a large process of trying to get information out.
“It’s important to use website information rather than print information where we can because the guidance keeps changing, so there’s a danger anything printed quickly becomes out of date.”
Dr Wilson was speaking at a meeting of Durham County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.
Ministers have said Britons flown out of Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, would be quarantined for two weeks once they arrived back in the UK.
Dr Wilson was quizzed by the committee on procedures for suspected patients and confirmed tests can take up to 48 hours to complete, but the 97 assessed in the UK so far had all been negative for the disease.
He added: “The evidence is to test people when they develop symptoms and we’re looking for signs of the virus in the respiratory system.”
Advice from the World Health Organisation regarding Coronavirus focuses on its ‘standard recommendations’ of washing hands, using disinfectants and covering mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing.