Every hospital in England is being asked to create “priority assessment pods” for patients with suspected coronavirus, the NHS has said.
Patients who are concerned they may have the virus are still advised to isolate themselves and call 111.
But the contingency measure is intended to prevent any patients who do arrive at hospital from mixing with vulnerable patients.
The secure areas are expected to be introduced this month.
A&E departments will be able to direct people who think they have symptoms of the coronavirus to a pod away from other patients, where they can call specialist NHS 111 teams on a dedicated phone.
BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle said the NHS is aware people may not always follow the advice to self-isolate if the virus starts to spread across England.
The pods are meant to protect others using the hospitals – who may have vulnerable immune systems.
“The problem hospitals face is where to create these pods. There is not lots of spare space on many sites to house coronavirus patients and building separate facilities may not be practical,” he said.