COVID-19: Self-Isolation & Social Distancing
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.
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
- you have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- you've tested positive for coronavirus – this means you have coronavirus
- you live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive
- someone in your support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive
- you're told by NHS Test and Trace that you've been in contact with a person with coronavirus
How to self-isolate
You must NOT leave your home if you're self-isolating:
- 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
- Read more about how to avoid spreading coronavirus to people you live with.
How long to self-isolate
You should self-isolate for at least 10 days if:
- you have symptoms of coronavirus and you tested positive, had an unclear result or did not have a test
- you tested positive but have not had symptoms
If you have symptoms, the 10 days starts from when they started.
If you have not had symptoms, the 10 days starts from when you had the test. But if you get symptoms after your test, self-isolate for a further 10 days from when your symptoms start.
Stop self-isolating after 10 days if you feel OK
You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if either:
- you do not have any symptoms
- you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone
Keep self-isolating if you feel unwell
Keep self-isolating if you have any of these symptoms after 10 days:
- a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- a runny nose or sneezing
- feeling or being sick
Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone.
If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they've stopped.
You should self-isolate for at least 14 days if:
- you have tested positive but not had symptoms
- you or someone you live with or in your support bubble has tested positive, or has symptoms but not had a negative test
- you've been told by NHS Test and Trace that you've been in contact with someone who has coronavirus
This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.
The 14 days starts from:
- when the first person in your home or support bubble started having symptoms
- the day they were tested, if they have not had symptoms – but if they get symptoms after they were tested, self-isolate for a further 14 days from when their symptoms start
Stop self-isolating after 14 days if you do not get symptoms
You can stop self-isolating after 14 days if you do not get any symptoms.
Keep self-isolating and get a test if you get symptoms
- Apply online to get a test to check if you have coronavirus if you get symptoms while you're self-isolating.
If your test is negative, you should keep self-isolating for the rest of the 14 days.
If your test is positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. This might mean you're self-isolating for longer than 14 days overall.
- Read more about how long to self-isolate.
Social distancing: what you need to do
To stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), you should try to avoid close contact with anyone you do not live with. This is called social distancing.
If you live alone or you’re a single parent who lives alone with your children, you can meet with 1 other household without social distancing. This is called a support bubble.
You must ensure that you are practising social distancing where possible - staying 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone outside of your household (or anyone not in your support bubble).
- Read more about meeting people from outside your household on GOV.UK.
- Please read the full GOV.UK guidance on staying alert & safe (social distancing).
- Get answers to common questions about what you can and can't do on GOV.UK.
Last updated: August 25, 2020
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