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When to self-isolate and what to do

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.

Information:

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:

Information:

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, follow advice on how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

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

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 advice on how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

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.

Information:

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

Find out about help and financial support while you're self-isolating

Page last reviewed: 22 July 2021
Next review due: 5 August 2021