What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19).
This helps stop the virus spreading to other people.
Self-isolation is different to:
- social distancing – general advice for everyone to avoid close contact with other people
- shielding – advice for people at high risk from COVID-19
It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told to by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.
When to self-isolate
Self-isolate immediately if:
- you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- you've tested positive for COVID-19 – this means you have the virus
- someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
- someone in your childcare or support bubble has symptoms and you’ve been in close contact with them since their symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started
- someone in your childcare or support bubble tested positive and you’ve been in close contact with them since they had the test or in the 48 hours before their test
- you've been told you've been in contact with someone who tested positive – find out what to do if you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
- you have arrived in England from abroad (not including Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or other parts of the UK) – see GOV.UK: how to quarantine when you arrive in England
What is a support bubble?
A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from 1 other household.
Find out more about making a support bubble with another household on GOV.UK.
If you think you've been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, but you do not have symptoms and have not been told to self-isolate, continue to follow social distancing advice.
How to self-isolate
You must not leave your home if you're self-isolating.
do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can
do not go on public transport or use taxis
do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online or by phone, or ask someone to bring it to your home
do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for people providing essential care
do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one
When to get a test
Get a PCR test (test that is sent to a lab) as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.
The symptoms are:
- a high temperature
- a new, continuous cough
- a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
The test needs to be done in the first 8 days of having symptoms.
Tell people you've been in close contact with that you have symptoms
You may want to tell people you've been in close contact with in the past 48 hours that you might have COVID-19.
What does close contact mean?
Examples of close contact include:
- close face to face contact (under 1 metre) for any length of time – including talking to them or coughing on them
- being within 1 to 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes – including travelling in a small vehicle
- spending lots of time in your home, such as cleaning it
They do not need to self-isolate unless they're contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service. But they should take extra care to follow social distancing advice, including washing their hands often.
If they get any symptoms of COVID-19, they must self-isolate and get a test as soon as possible.
How long to self-isolate
If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you do not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.
Anyone you live with will also need to self-isolate at the same time.
You may need to self-isolate for longer if you get symptoms while self-isolating or your symptoms do not go away.
Read more about how long to self-isolate.
Help and support while you're staying at home
While you're self-isolating:
- you can get help with everyday tasks, like collecting shopping or medicines, from an NHS volunteer
- you might be able to get sick pay or other types of financial support if you're not able to work