UK ministers have suggested the Government is keeping open the option of airlifting back to Britain up to 200 Britons trapped in Wuhan city, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, said the Government was “closely monitoring the situation”.

He was asked how UK citizens could get out of Wuhan in Hubei province, as urged to do so by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office[FCO], when all the airports there were closed and the city was in lock-down.

Mr Barclay told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s a fast-moving situation and one that we are monitoring. The FCO is working with the Chinese authorities in that regard.”

Some 2,000 people had come into Heathrow Airport from Wuhan but Mr Barclay confirmed that only 31 people had been tested for the virus, all of whom had proved negative for it. He said the authorities had been “reaching out” to people and that was ongoing.

“We are unfortunate in that we have many of the world experts in this field here in the UK and are obviously informing our approach. Work is going on on that and if people have the symptoms, they should report it. But all the tests so far have proved negative,” he explained.

Pressed if an airlift was being considered, the Secretary of State replied: “We continue to monitor it…We keep it under review.”

A Commons update to MPs is expected tomorrow and another meeting of Whitehall’s emergency Cobra committee could also meet again in the next 48 hours.

There are also no confirmed diagnoses in UK citizens abroad. The risk to the public in Britain is still classed as “low”.

READ MORE: Coronavirus death toll in China rises as US prepares evacuation

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, also asked about a possible airlift, said the Government was “looking at all options”.

Asked what the Government was doing to contact those people who had returned to the UK from Wuhan, she told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “There are many efforts being made and this is where Border Force provides information to Public Health England in terms of passengers that have travelled to and from the area and they are contacting people and reaching out to them and providing screening and testing; that is fine, that is in hand and that is taking place.

“But, right now, in terms of the urgency of the situation, and rightly so, we are working with the Chinese authorities, the World Health Organisation and Public Health England to look at what is going on and to ensure we are doing our utmost to stop the virus coming to the United Kingdom and obviously becoming a widespread problem.”

The FCO has updated its guidance to "advise against all travel to Hubei province", which has been on lockdown for several days as China seeks to contain the illness.

But the guidance also adds: "If you are in this area and able to leave, you should do so. This is due to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak."

Earlier, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, said his country would evacuate any of its citizens in Wuhan who wished to return to Japan.

His comment came as Japan reported its fourth case of the fatal virus. The case was confirmed in a male resident of Wuhan in his 40s who had arrived in the country on holiday last week.

America reported its third case of the virus. A person from Wuhan tested positive in southern California. The patient is now in isolation at a local hospital and said to be in a good condition.

Other countries with confirmed cases include France, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea.

READ MORE: David Pratt: No time for complacency over coronavirus

The Chinese health authority has said that 56 people have now died from the virus, all in China, with more than 2,000 affected around the world. It explained that the virus appeared to be strengthening.

Ma Xiaowei, the country’s Health Minister said the outbreak was at a "crucial stage of containment".

The virus’s incubation period, during which time a person has the disease but shows no symptoms, ranges from between one and 14 days. However, without symptoms, a person might not know they have the infection and yet still be able to spread it.

UK health officials are continuing to track down around 2,000 people who have recently flown into the UK from Wuhan.

The Department of Health confirmed it was trying to find "as many passengers as we can" who arrived from the region in the past two weeks to check on their wellbeing.

Border Force officers have been recruited to help speed up the search for passengers as testing for the virus continues in the UK.

One British man who had travelled to Wuhan to visit his girlfriend is stuck in the city after his return flight on February 3 was cancelled, and he described trying to get out of the area as "impossible".

The 29-year-old, who did not want to be named, explained: "There have been sporadic warnings from local government in Chinese to tell us that there will be road closures.

"There is no news on when the airport will re-open therefore the airline (China Southern) have just cancelled the flight.

"I've also had no help from the UK Embassy in Beijing who are conveniently closed for the weekend."

Professor Chris Witty, England's Chief Medical Officer[CMO], said there was a "fair chance" cases would emerge in Britain as the overall number reported around the world climbed to around 2,000 including 56 deaths, which have all occurred in China.

"I am working closely with the other UK chief medical officers. We all agree that the risk to the UK public remains low but there may well be cases in the UK at some stage."

He went on: "The UK has access to some of the best infectious disease and public health experts in the world.

"A public health hub will be set up in Heathrow from today. This consists of clinicians and other public health officials, in addition to existing port health measures."

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak: What are the symptoms and how does it spread?

In an interview, the CMO explained: "There's a fair chance we may get some cases over time.

"Of course, this depends on whether this continues for a long time, or whether this turns out to be something which is brought under control relatively quickly."

He added: "We should definitely see this as a marathon, not a sprint, we need to have our entire response based on that principle.

"At the minute it definitely looks like this is a lot less dangerous if you get it than Ebola, and a lot less dangerous than the recent coronavirus MERS, and it's probably less dangerous if you get it than SARS virus.

"What we don't know is how far it's going to spread, that really is something we need to plan for all eventualities."