This page is updated regularly. Last updated at 11:55 on 16th August 2021.

Self-isolation explained

Self-isolation is an important way to protect yourself and others, and slow down the spread of COVID-19. Please note you could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19 or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate.

You should self-isolate if:

  • you have COVID-19 symptoms
  • you are waiting for a COVID-19 test result
  • you have tested positive for COVID-19
  • you have returned to the UK from a country with a high COVID-19 risk - please see the Government website for the full list

You should also self-isolate if the below apply and you do not meet the criteria for self-isolation exemption following COVID-19 contact (Please see the UK Gov webpage for more details about self-isolation exemptions):

  • you live with someone has symptoms, is waiting for a test result or has tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms, is waiting for a test result or has tested positive
  • you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app

Self-isolation means staying at home and applies to those who have symptoms, those who live in the same household as someone with symptoms, or those who have been advised to self-isolate after being in close contact with someone with COVID-19. It is different from social distancing, which refers to the steps you can take to reduce social interaction.

If you have been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service or the NHS COVID-19 app, please follow the self-isolation guidance on our Testing for COVID-19 page.

How to self-isolate

Watch the video

Practical tips on how to self-isolate

  • Stay at home and keep your home well ventilated
  • Do not leave the house to go to work, school or public places
  • Do not invite visitors into your home
  • Get shopping and medicine delivered to your house by friends, family or delivery services
  • Ask for deliveries to be left outside your house for you to collect, unless delivered by a household member

You can use your garden, if you have one. All exercise should be carried out at home.

    Living with vulnerable individuals

    If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to arrange for them to stay elsewhere with friends or family for 10 days. If this is not possible:

    • Avoid shared spaces for example by using separate bedrooms and bathrooms, and the vulnerable person should eat in their room
    • If you can’t avoid shared spaces, try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other and keep windows open in any shared spaces
    • Keep toiletries, laundry, cutlery and kitchen utensils separate - for example toothbrushes, sheets, towels, crockery and cups
    • Wash bedding at 60-90°C, and wash cutlery and kitchen utensils thoroughly with soap and warm water or in a dishwasher
    • Disinfect toilets and bathroom surfaces after use and disinfect bedroom surfaces at least once a day
    • Wash your hands before and after using the bathroom and kitchen, and before contact with the vulnerable person

    How long do you need to self-isolate for?

    If you have been advised to self-isolate (based on symptoms or a positive test result) and you live alone, you need to stay at home for 10 full days from the day your symptoms started or from when you were tested and avoid contact with other people. You may need to self-isolate for 14 days instead of 10 days if you live in supported living or a care home.

    It is important to remember that you can still pass on COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms – so you must complete the full 10 day self-isolation period. If you haven’t had symptoms, you should isolate for 10 full days from when you had your test. If you develop symptoms after your positive test, you must self-isolate another 10 days from when your symptoms started.

    In England, if you are unable to take a PCR test within 2 days of having a positive lateral flow test result, you still need to self-isolate the full 10 days even if the PCR result is negative.

    If you still have a fever, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or are sneezing beyond the 10th day, you must continue to self-isolate until these symptoms have gone. Stay at home for at least 48 hours after your nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea stops. If you continue to have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste beyond the 10th day, you do not need to self-isolate for longer as those symptoms can persist once the infection is over and don’t mean you are still infectious.

    Should you, someone you live with, or someone in your support bubble develop COVID-19 symptoms again, you must self-isolate. This is necessary even if you or someone you live with tested positive before and/or recovered from suspected COVID-19 symptoms since it is unclear how long immunity to COVID-19 lasts.

      Household (and confirmed close contacts) isolation

      If you live with others, you need to stay home for 10 days, but everyone else in your household needs to stay home the day your symptoms started or while you are waiting for a test result, and for the next 10 full days. In certain circumstances your household do not need to self-isolate, please see the UK Gov webpage for more details. If you haven’t had symptoms but tested positive, this should be from the day you took your test. If you've been notified that one of your close contacts has tested positive, you should self-isolate at home from the day you last saw them and for the next 10 full days. This is because it is likely those in your household (and close contacts) will already be infected or may become infected in the following days. Your household and close contacts are now eligible for a free test if you have symptoms or have tested positive, even if they themselves do not have symptoms. If they are tested and receive a negative result, they should continue self-isolating for the original 10 days.

      What happens if someone in your family gets sick?

      If others in your household develop symptoms during the isolation period, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the day after they first get symptoms, even if it means the self-isolation will extend beyond the original 10 days.

      Household members and members of your support bubble that don’t get any symptoms during those 10 days can stop self-isolating at the end of that 10 day period.

      The infographic above shows when self-isolation should end for household members.

      How to cope with self-isolation

      Self-isolation can be a challenging time, both mentally and physically. We’ve put together some helpful tips on how to cope with staying at home.

      Read more

      Watch our video guides

      • How to look after someone with COVID-19

      • How to wash your hands

      • How to use hand sanitizer