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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.

Important

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 straight away and get a PCR test (a test that is sent to the lab) on GOV.UK as soon as possible if you have any of these 3 symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

You should also self-isolate straight away if:

Information:

You may need to quarantine when you arrive in England from abroad. Check the quarantine rules when entering England on GOV.UK

When you do not need to self-isolate

If you live with or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, you will not need to self-isolate if any of the following apply:

  • you're fully vaccinated – this means 14 days have passed since your final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine
  • you're under 18 years old
  • you're taking part or have taken part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
  • you're not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

Even if you do not have symptoms, you're strongly advised to:

Tell people you've been in close contact with that you have symptoms

Tell people you've been in close contact with in the past 48 hours that you might have COVID-19.

You should tell them to follow advice on how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19.

They do not need to self-isolate unless they're contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service.

If they get any symptoms of COVID-19, they should self-isolate and get a test as soon as possible.

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

  • 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

Do

  • work from home if you can and are well enough – this helps reduce the number of people you have contact with

When you can leave your home while self-isolating

You can temporarily leave self-isolation to:

  • post a PCR test or antibody test at a Royal Mail priority postbox
  • get food or medicine if you cannot order it online or by phone, or you cannot ask someone to bring it to your home
  • get urgent health services for you, your family and pets
  • avoid harm, for example, if there is a fire or you are at risk of domestic abuse
  • access services as a victim of crime, for example, if there has been a burglary
  • help someone who is pregnant to go to a medical appointment, or to give birth
  • go to the funeral of a close family member or friend
  • meet legal duties such as going to court, taking part in court proceedings, or following bail conditions
  • take part in NHS COVID-19 research, but only if you're asked to leave self-isolation

You should take extra care to follow advice on how to avoid catching and spreading COVID-19 while you have temporarily left self-isolation.

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 did not have symptoms) and the next 10 full days.

You may need to self-isolate for longer if you get symptoms while self-isolating or your symptoms do not go away.

You may also be able to leave self-isolation on or after day 6 of your self-isolation period if certain conditions are met. Read more about how long to self-isolate.

Page last reviewed: 17 January 2022
Next review due: 20 January 2022