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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.

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
Information:

It's a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

When to self-isolate

Self-isolate immediately if:

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.

Information:

If you think you've been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, 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.

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 test as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of coronavirus.

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.

You do not need to get a test if you have no symptoms or if you have different 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 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 to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace

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: 20 November 2020
Next review due: 27 November 2020