This page is reviewed regularly. Last update at 11:08 on 14th January 2022

How to protect yourself and others

COVID-19 is spread from person to person. In particular, it is thought to spread between people that have close contact with one another (within 2 metres) and through infected respiratory droplets that come out when you speak, cough or sneeze.

To reduce your chances of becoming infected or infecting others, it is important to self-isolate if you're unwell.

Alongside these measures, the following steps also help to prevent the infection from spreading and should be carried out at all times by everyone:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand gel
  • When coughing or sneezing, do so either into a tissue or into the crease of your elbow. Dispose of used tissues immediately and wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
  • Stay away from people who are unwell
  • Stay at home if you are feeling unwell

    How to wash your hands

    Watch the video

    Wearing a face covering

    In England, the government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport. For more information and rules in other areas of the UK, visit the page. Face coverings should not be worn by children under 3 years old and people with breathing difficulties. For a full list of exemptions visit the page.

    When used correctly, scientific evidence suggests that face coverings prevent the spread of COVID-19 by people who don’t have symptoms. For more information on face coverings and how to use them effectively, read our face covering blog.

    Controlling the spread

    Although many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, it is important that we all use personal judgement to manage our own risk. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts.

    COVID-19 spreads in a chain, from one person to the next, through close sustained contact. When combined with proper respiratory hygiene and regular hand washing, the aim is to slow the spread of COVID-19 through limiting the amount of contact we have with each other, by breaking the chain of transmission. This can ultimately reduce the burden on healthcare providers, allowing them to better manage the number of COVID-19 cases that are still appearing.


    The aim of self-isolation is to avoid infecting others with COVID-19 when you or someone in your household is unwell.

    What is self-isolation?
    Self-isolation means remaining indoors and avoiding contact with any other people, to avoid spreading the virus to your family, friends and the wider community.

    For practical tips on how to self-isolate, have a look at our self-isolation page and watch our video.

    Who does self-isolation apply to?

    The UK Government recommends that the following people self-isolate:

    People who have COVID-19 symptoms

      If you have a high temperature, a new continuous cough or anosmia, you need to self-isolate from the day your symptoms start and the next 10 full days. You should remain in isolation for as long as you have a fever, runny nose, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea beyond that time. If you still have a cough or anosmia after 10 days, you do not need to continue self-isolating. This is because these symptoms can persist once the infection is over and it doesn’t mean you are still infectious.

      People who live with someone with COVID-19 symptoms

        If one person has symptoms of COVID-19, the rest of the household may need to self-isolate from the day their symptoms start and the next 10 full days, as it is likely that people who live in the same household will infect one another, or already be infected. In certain circumstances your household do not need to self-isolate, please see the UK Gov webpage for more details.

        If anyone else in the household gets symptoms, they need to stay home from the day their symptoms start and the next 10 full days, regardless of what stage of the 10-day isolation period they become unwell.

        When should self-isolation end?

        If you’ve been self-isolating because of COVID-19 symptoms, your self-isolation period ends 10 full days after the day your symptoms started. You may need to self-isolate for 14 days instead of 10 days if you live in supported living or a care home. If your household has been self-isolating, the self-isolation period ends 10 full days after the day your symptoms started for anyone that hasn’t developed symptoms. If someone in the household develops symptoms, that person must must follow the same rules for self-isolation.

        You may be able to stop self-isolating earlier if you have two negative rapid lateral flow tests at least 24 hours apart; please see the NHS website for the most up to date advice.

        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.

        Watch our video guides

        • How to wash your hands

        • How to use hand sanitizer

        • Why it's important to wash your hands