A swine flu vaccination programme is being prepared so the country is ready if the disease becomes a full-blown pandemic, it has been revealed.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson (pictured) said it could take up to six months before a vaccine was available for widespread use but explained that the government had contacted manufacturers so that the UK could obtain "early supplies" of the treatment when it was ready.
While addressing MPs, Mr Johnson was criticised over delays in the setting up of a sophisticated flu line by the NHS.
The minister said an interim phone and internet-based system was available to diagnose sufferers and prescribe antiviral medication, with online part of the system ready to be active within a week if necessary.
Seven new cases of swine flu have recently been confirmed, taking the total number of UK cases to 78.
Mr Johnson said: "We have yet to see sustained transmission within communities within the UK, that is to say a significant number of cases between people who have no obvious connection to each other.
"The containment strategy that we have adopted, supplying antivirals as a preventative measure both to those who have developed the disease and to their close contacts, and in certain circumstances closing schools where disease can spread particularly rapidly, is effective in that it is delaying the spread of the disease and buying valuable time."