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When to self-isolate and what to do

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation is when you stay at home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19).

This helps stop the virus spreading to other people.

Information:

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 coronavirus

When to self-isolate

Self-isolate if:

What is a support bubble?

A support bubble is where people who live alone (or just with their children) meet people from 1 other household.

Find out more about meeting with people outside your household on GOV.UK.

Information:

For information about self-isolating when you come to the UK, see GOV.UK: how to self-isolate when you travel to the UK.

How to self-isolate

You must not leave your home if you're self-isolating.

Don't

  • 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

Get a test if you have symptoms

If you have symptoms, get a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

The test needs to be done in the first 5 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 coronavirus.

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 coronavirus symptoms, they must self-isolate and get a coronavirus test as soon as possible.

How long to self-isolate

If you have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus, you'll usually need to self-isolate for at least 10 days.

You'll usually need to self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
  • you've been told by NHS Test and Trace that you've been in contact with someone who has coronavirus

Read more about how long to self-isolate.

Get an isolation note for your employer if you're unable to work

If you need to self-isolate, you can get an isolation note to send to your employer as proof you need to be off work.

You do not need to get a note from a GP.

Page last reviewed: 7 August 2020
Next review due: 14 August 2020