THE UK will not have access to the EU's pandemic early warning system in the wake of the global spread of coronavirus because Downing Street does not want to cross any Brexit red lines, it has been revealed.

The UK has now had 36 confirmed cases of covid-19, including one in Scotland, and further cases are expected.

However, despite the Department of Health wanting to continue membership of the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) as part of the UK's post-Brexit EU trade deal, Downing Street has ruled this out - warning it did not want to blur the UK's current set of requests.

The Department of Health warned Number 10 that leaving the EWRS - which has helped in the fight against coronavirus and previous outbreaks like bird flu, SARS and Ebola - could put public health at risk. 

But Downing Street's negotiating team said add-on requests to the Canada-style agreement they are seeking could risk the UK's leverage in discussions. 

The UK's Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also been prevented from meeting with other EU health ministers amid the coronavirus outbreak, it has been reported.

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford called the decision "unacceptable".

In a tweet, he wrote: "This is not a game. Cooperation with our EU partners is essential. We do not need grandstanding from the Brexit fan boys at number 10. What matters is public safety, tackling the virus demands leadership, something @BorisJohnson is incapable of delivering."

According to The Telegraph, a source said: “The Department of Health pitched for continued access to the EWRS to be an objective of the negotiations, but it was blocked because they didn’t want to be accused of seeking more than the basic Canada deal.”

The online-based EWRS system links the European Commission, governments and other important agencies with the aim of controlling cross-border health threats.

The first round of the UK's talks with the EU will begin in Brussels today.