How and when to self-isolate
What is self‑isolation?
Self-isolation is staying at home to prevent spreading Covid-19 to other people. What you must do if you need to self-isolate:
- stay at home or in your accommodation. Do not go to work, school, shops or any other places
- do not have visitors in your home or accommodation
- have food, medication and other supplies delivered to you
Get help to self-isolate
We can connect you to the practical and emotional support you need, through our Stay home safely support service. Call 0800 054 1215, 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week.
You may also be able to get a £500 payment if you need to self-isolate or are caring for someone who is if you cannot work from home and you are on a low income.
When do you need to self‑isolate?
You need to self-isolate if any of the following apply, you:
- have symptoms of Covid-19 (new persistent cough, fever, loss of smell/taste) and are waiting for a Covid-19 test result
- have tested positive for Covid-19
- live with someone who has suspected or confirmed Covid-19
- have been told to self-isolate because you’ve been in close contact with a person with Covid-19
- have returned from another country. People arriving from countries on the travel ban red list will self-isolate in government‑approved hotels
How long do you need to self-isolate for?
If you have Covid-19 symptoms (new persistent cough, fever, loss of smell/taste)
- you need to self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started
- you need to get a test as soon as possible within 5 days
- your household needs to self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started
If you have tested positive for Covid-19
- you need to self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started (or 10 days from when you tested positive if you did not have symptoms)
- your household needs to self-isolate for 10 days from the day symptoms started (or 10 days from when you tested positive if you did not have symptoms)
If someone else in your household gets Covid-19 symptoms during your self-isolation period
- they need to get a test as soon as possible within 5 days
- they need to self-isolate for a further 10 days from the day their symptoms started
If someone else in your household tests positive for Covid-19 during your self-isolation period
- they need to self-isolate for 10 days from the day they did their test
- anyone else you live with who has no symptoms continues to self-isolate for 10 days from the day the first person in household got symptoms (or tested positive)
See an example below of four people in a household self-isolating for different amounts of time
How to prevent the spread of infection while self-isolating
There are measures you should take while self-isolating to reduce the risk of infecting others with Covid-19. Whether you live alone or with others, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, put the tissue in the bin and wash your hands afterwards.
If you live with others
- stay in separate rooms from others in your household where possible, and where you cannot, try to maintain a distance of 2 metres and wear a face covering around others
- use separate household items, like towels, bedding, toothbrushes, cups and dishes
- wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser for 20 seconds, particularly before cooking and eating, after using the toilet and touching waste or surfaces
- use separate facilities or, if sharing clean them thoroughly before use by others with regular detergents and bleach
- wash laundry using the highest temperature setting indicated on the care label. Avoid shaking dirty laundry. Wash laundry separately from the other people you live with where possible. If you do not have a washing machine, wait three days after your self-isolation has ended, and then use a public launderette
If you live with a vulnerable person/people
- where possible, arrange for anyone who is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable to move out of your home, to stay with friends or family while you are self-isolating
- if this is not possible, stay away from them as much as possible in the home
You should help the vulnerable person/people you live with minimise their contact with the rest of the household, whether they have symptoms or not. Support them in:
- minimising time spent in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas ensuring any shared spaces are well ventilated
- using a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. If this is not possible, the vulnerable person should use it first, after it has been cleaned
- using separate towels and utensils from the rest of the household
- having meals in their own rooms
- using a dishwasher to clean and dry the crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water, and using a separate tea towel to dry them thoroughly
It will be difficult for some people to separate themselves from others at home. Not all these measures will be possible if you are living with children or people with significant conditions, like learning disabilities. But you need to follow this guidance to the best of your ability, and everyone in your household should regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their face, and clean frequently touched surfaces.
The more you follow this advice, the more you protect those around you.
How to look after yourself at home if you have Covid‑19
See the relevant information on the NHS website, in the Self-isolation and treating coronavirus symptoms section.