Introduction and summary
This guidance applies to Wales. For the rules or guidance in the other parts of the UK, please visit the sites for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have sought to keep any differences with other parts of the UK to a minimum and are working closely with the other nations. But it is important to understand that the rules here in Wales are different. Regardless where you normally live, it is important everyone living, working or visiting Wales follows the rules that apply here in Wales.
What legal requirements remain?
At Alert Level 0, from 7 August 2021, there are no legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events. In addition all businesses and premises may be open.
However, we have not yet reached a position where we can remove all protections and – in line with the latest scientific and public health advice – we are keeping some key rules in place in law. In these respects collective responsibility is needed rather than personal choice.
- Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus.
- Everyone must still self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19.
- Every adult (18 or over) who is notified by a contact tracer that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they have been fully vaccinated in the UK (You are considered to be fully vaccinated, if it has been at least two weeks (14 days) since you completed a full course of an approved vaccine against coronavirus more than 14 days before they had the close contact
- From the 29 October, the Welsh Government is also strongly advising if someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive and you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If your test is negative you can stop isolating. Children under 5 are no longer advised to take a test unless recommended by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interest of the child.
Adults and children over 12 must continue to wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes, nightclubs or for solemnisation of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or an alternative wedding ceremonies.
What are the main things I can do to lower my risk and the risk I might put others in?
Key protective behaviours can lower your risk of exposure to coronavirus, and the extent to which you could put others at risk. These are particularly effective when a number are in place in combination. These are set out in more detail later in this guidance, but key elements include:
- getting both vaccinations if you are able to – the vaccine offers significant protections not only for you but also for others, including the people you care about (even if you were unsure and have not yet taken up the offer, it is not too late)
- self-isolating and getting a PCR test when you have symptoms and avoiding others when ill
- keeping your distance from others wherever possible
- limiting the number of people you meet with, especially meeting different people in quick succession
- meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated places
- avoiding crowded places where possible
- maintaining good hygiene by washing hands, sneezing into tissues and keeping surfaces lots of people touch clean
- wearing a face covering – particularly when in crowded spaces or when you are not able to maintain a distance, primarily in order to protect others
We are asking everyone to think carefully about what is the most sensible thing for you to do to protect your family, friends and your community, rather than thinking only about what the law allows you to do.
Coronavirus will continue to infect people and, in those who are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated, the risk of becoming seriously ill or needing hospital treatment is still significant and is much higher than for those who are fully vaccinated.
How coronavirus spreads
The most common ways coronavirus is spread are:
- through the air as an aerosol which can stay in the air for a long time
- through the air by droplets which can spread nearby and onto surfaces
- by direct contact with an infected person
- by direct contact with a contaminated surface
This helps us understand what kind of places and situations are most risky. So places where we might come into close contact with a lot of other people will have a higher risk. Similarly, places where ventilation is poor will mean that stale air is not removed and fresh air is not introduced, giving coronavirus the opportunity to build up. Places where people are breathing more heavily can also provide opportunities for coronavirus to spread further. So the following places are particularly risky:
- indoor places where ventilation is poor
- indoor places where people, particularly lots of people, are together for a long time
- any place, particularly indoors, where people have close contact with others
- any place, particularly indoors, where people are breathing heavily close to others or over extended periods, such as through strenuous exercise, loud singing, chanting, or shouting, coughing or sneezing
The different ways coronavirus spreads are illustrated in the diagram below:
What are the most effective ways we can all lower risks from coronavirus?
As we move away from having lots of restrictions required by law, it is up to us all, including individuals, organisations and government, to understand the risks that remain and what we can do to manage them together. Although our vaccination programme is helping lower risks for everyone, coronavirus is still circulating widely.
The most effective way to minimise risks, especially serious illness or hospitalisation, is to get vaccinated. Both doses of vaccine are needed to get protection. It takes at least two weeks (14 days) after your second dose before you have the full protection from your vaccine. It is never too late to get your vaccine and walk-in centres are open.
There are different ways to minimise risk in addition to vaccination. These are often described as the “hierarchy of controls”. A more detailed description aimed at businesses, employers and other organisations is provided in the guidance for businesses and employers.
In simple terms these controls can be described in order of effectiveness:
Avoid or remove the risk
This is the most effective way to minimise risks. For example:
- work from home or meet people virtually
- self-isolate if you have symptoms and get a PCR test. Stay at home if you are ill
- consider routine, regular testing using rapid lateral flow tests even if you have no symptoms
- note that places that require testing or vaccination before attending will be less likely to have infectious people present
Change the risky activity for a less risky one
- meeting outdoors instead of indoors
- keeping physical distance from other people where possible
- avoid crowded areas, especially indoors and where ventilation is poor
Try to lower the risk by changing the way the activity takes place
- improving ventilation by opening windows and doors
- cleaning surfaces regularly
- washing hands regularly
- get vaccinated
Lower any remaining risks of exposure
This measure and should be used in combination with the above rather than on its own. For example:
- wearing face coverings
- wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves or eye/face protection
How to reduce my risk
It’s important to remember that almost one-in-three people with coronavirus don’t show symptoms. Whenever we come together, there’s always a risk that the virus will come too.
Fresh air can help to reduce the spread. Coronavirus spreads through airborne particles when we breathe and talk, and even more when laughing, shouting or exercising. Doing any of these things inside, in a poorly ventilated space, increases the risk even more. Being outdoors, or opening windows and doors if you’re inside, can help to decrease the number of infectious particles hanging around. If you invite friends, family or others, such as a tradesperson, into your home, open the windows to let fresh air in and encourage them to wear a face covering.
If you meet up with someone in your garden, you can reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading by not sharing crockery or cutlery, keeping social distancing and ensuring no-one goes inside. Allowing someone inside your home, even for a few minutes, increases the risk of catching or spreading the virus for everyone in your household.
Reduce the number of people you meet
We all want to meet our friends again. But think about what is the most sensible thing for you to do to protect your family, friends and your community. Limiting how many different people you see helps keep you, your family, and friend’s safe. It’s less risky to see the same one or two people regularly than to see lots of different people occasionally. By only meeting a few people, everyone’s contacts are less and the virus will find it harder to spread.
Reduce face-to-face time with other people
The main way coronavirus spreads is through close contact with an infected person. So meeting face-to-face increases the risk of getting and giving coronavirus – the shorter the time, the lower the risk.
Social distancing is one of the best ways to stop coronavirus spreading
Staying at least 2 metres away from people you do not live with, makes a big difference in reducing the chances of the virus spreading. We all forget sometimes - if someone is too close while you are out and about, be kind and try asking them to step back. Don’t be offended if someone asks you to keep your distance too – we can all help each other through. Choosing not to share a lift, choosing less busy times to visit places, and using a face covering all help to reduce the risk to you and others.
If someone needs to visit your home for work reasons, keep your distance and open the windows to let fresh air in.
If you become infected, keep your distance from other members of your household as much as possible, especially if they are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Washing your hands
Washing your hands with soap and water or regularly using hand sanitiser when you don’t have access to soap and water helps stop the virus spreading. Our hands touch many surfaces throughout the day and this can help the virus to move around. If you have the virus on your hands you can transfer it to other surfaces or to your eyes, nose or mouth. This is one way that viruses can enter your body and infect you. Washing or sanitising your hands removes viruses and other germs, so you are less likely to spread them or to become infected.
What should you think about when planning to take part in an activity?
There are some additional things it is useful to consider:
Who am I going to be meeting with and mixing with?
If others are fully vaccinated the risks will be lower. If you are meeting with people who are vulnerable or have been unable to be vaccinated you may want to be careful in the 10 days prior to meeting, such as limiting your contacts and maintaining physical distancing.
What is the risk to others?
You should think about who you will see after the activity you are planning to take part in. If you are doing a higher risk activity like attending a large event or nightclub, you may want to limit your contact with others for 10 days after the event, in particular those that might be at most risk.
What protective measures have been put in place where I am going?
All public places have a legal duty to put in place measures to minimise risks, which may include asking to provide contact information as part of Test, Trace, Protect. If a place has taken protective measures and clearly communicates them you can see the risks are being managed compared to a place that does not.
What are the rules on self-isolation?
Self-isolating when you have symptoms, if someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive or if you have been told to isolate by a contact tracer is one of the most important steps you can take to protect others. Self-isolation helps to prevent people who have tested positive for COVID-19 passing it on to their friends, family and wider community, including their work colleagues. The requirement to self-isolate following a positive test or notification by the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracers (by phone, email or letter) in Wales is a legal requirement.
Test, Trace, Protect
The Test, Trace, Protect strategy sets out the approach to managing coronavirus and it works by:
- Testing those people who have coronavirus symptoms, asking them to isolate whilst taking a PCR test and waiting for a result. You can apply for a PCR test for yourself or someone in your household with symptoms. This includes adults and children over the age of 5.
- Tracing those who have been in close contact with people that have tested positive , requiring them to take precautions such as self-isolating in some circumstances and offering PCR tests.
- Providing advice and guidance, particularly if the person has tested positive, or their contacts are in groups at increased risk of COVID-19 including advice for those people who are exempt from self-isolation because they are fully vaccinated or under 18.
- Ensuring that if they have a negative result, they can end their self-isolation period.
Engage with the Test, Trace, Protect service
You should complete a period of self-isolation if you:
- feel unwell with any of the identified COVID-19 symptoms; a new continuous cough, a high temperature, loss of or change to sense of smell or taste. You should remain at home, self-isolate, arrange a COVID-19 test and continue to self-isolate whilst awaiting the result of the test.
- test positive for COVID-19 (you need to isolate for 10 days from the day immediately following the date of the start of your symptoms or the day immediately following the date of your positive test if no symptoms).
- have been identified as a close contact of a positive case of COVID-19 and asked to self-isolate by Test, Trace, Protect because, for example, you are not fully vaccinated
- If someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive and you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If your test is negative you can stop isolating.
Who has to self-isolate?
If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 - a new continuous cough, a high temperature, loss of or change to sense of smell or taste - however mild, you should stay at home and self-isolate while making arrangements to be tested with a PCR test.. If the test result is negative you can return to your regular routine when they are well enough to do so.
Individuals receiving a positive test result
If you receive a positive test result, you must self-isolate for 10 days and follow the guidance. You will be breaking the law and could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate. If you receive a positive lateral flow test (LFT) result, you should isolate and arrange a follow-up PCR test.
Unvaccinated adults identified as close contacts of someone who has has tested positive for COVID-19
If you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You should also get a PCR test on day 2 from your last contact with the positive case (or as soon as possible) and on day 8. If the tests are negative, you will still need to self-isolate for the full 10 day period. This is because if you’ve been infected, it can take time for symptoms to develop or to become infectious to others.
It is important that you take these tests even if you feel well, you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.
Vaccinated adults or children aged 5 to 17 identified as a household contact of someone who has symptoms or has tested positive
All household members fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 are advised to self-isolate and take a PCR test as soon as possible. If their test is negative they can stop isolating.
Who does not need to self-isolate?
Vaccinated adults identified as a non-household close contact of a positive case of COVID-19
If you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus you will not need to self-isolate if you do not have any symptoms. You should get a PCR test on day 2 from your last contact with the positive case (or as soon as possible) and day 8. It is important that you take these tests even if you feel well as you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.
Those who are no longer required to self-isolate will also receive advice and guidance from TTP contact tracers about how to protect themselves as follows:
Those who are no longer required to self-isolate will also receive advice and guidance from TTP contact tracers about how to protect themselves as follows:
- try to minimise contact with others and avoid crowded settings, particularly indoor settings
- consider using lateral flow tests on a daily/ more regular basis for the time you would otherwise have been self-isolating
- do not visit vulnerable people such as those in care homes or hospitals.
- work from home if you are not already doing so
- inform your employer that you are a contact of a positive case of COVID-19.
- pay extra attention to thorough and regular hand washing and wearing a face covering
- if you work in the Health and Social Care sector your employer may ask you to take additional tests as a precaution or temporarily ask you to undertake an alternative role as outlined in the COVID-19 contacts: guidance for health and social care staff
- if you work in special educational provision your employer may ask you to take additional tests as a precaution or be redeployed to a role where you are not facing individuals who have higher clinical risks or instructed not to attend work
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms at any point, no matter how mild, regardless of your vaccine status and you are over age 5, you should immediately self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days if the test is positive.
What does fully vaccinated mean
You are considered to be fully vaccinated if it is at least 14 full days since you had the full course of an approved vaccine, and it was administered in the UK.
If you have not completed your vaccination course (usually 2 separate vaccinations), at least 14 full days before the close contact, or if you received your vaccination outside of the UK, you will be required to self-isolate if contacted by TTP.
If you have participated in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, you do not need to self-isolate if contacted by TTP.
Individuals identified through the NHS-COVID-19 App
The NHS COVID-19 App will let you know if you have come into contact with someone who later tests positive for coronavirus. More than 21 million people are using the app like this to keep them safe. Your privacy is protected, so nobody, including the government, will know who you are or where you are. If you receive a close contact notification, we also strongly advise you to self-isolate if you have not been fully vaccinated, are 18 or over and are notified through the NHS COVID-19 app that you should do so. However, there is no legal duty to do so because the privacy and anonymity protections on the app mean that it does not collect any personal details. We advise that you should take a PCR test on day 2 and on day 8 following your exposure to the infected person.
I have been told to self-isolate – are there any situations in which I can still leave home?
There are a few exceptional circumstances where you are able to leave self-isolation:
- to seek medical assistance, where this is urgent or you are advised to do so by a medical professional
- where you are at serious risk of harm, such as to avoid domestic abuse or sexual violence
- to meet a legal obligation or participate in court proceedings, if this cannot be done remotely from home
- for compassionate reasons, such as attending the funeral of a family member or close friend if you are invited
- to shop for basic necessities, but only if nobody else can do this for you and you cannot get them delivered
- to move house, if you have to because it is no longer possible for you to stay where you are living
- to access veterinary services, if nobody else can transport the animal to and from those services
- to access public services (including social services or victims’ services) where access to the service is critical to the person’s well-being, and the service cannot be provided if the person remains at the place where the person is living
- to prevent illness, injury or other risk of harm to another person
- to move to a different place to live to prevent illness to another person
However, although you are allowed to leave home for these purposes, you should think carefully about whether you have an alternative to doing so.
If you have to leave home and have no alternative, in all of the above cases, you must stay away from home for the shortest possible time, and you should take every possible precautionary measure to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. This includes maintaining the greatest possible distance from other people, avoiding public transport, and wearing a face covering.
These exceptions do not apply to people required to self-isolate when arriving in Wales from a country under additional measures. In these instances you must follow the advice outlined in the self-isolation guidance for travel in to Wales.
What support is available to people who have to self-isolate?
People can apply to receive a £750 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or they are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service or the NHS COVID-19 App because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
The payment is available to people on a low income who are unable to work from home and would lose income as a result of self-isolating. To be eligible, people must be self-isolating and in receipt of Universal Credit or another specified benefit.
People can also apply to their local authority for a discretionary payment if they are unable to work from home and are losing income and facing financial hardship. Parents and carers of children who have been asked to self-isolate through their education setting are also able to apply.
The Self-Isolation Payment scheme has been live since 16 November. People are able to apply for the payments via their local authority website and claims must be made within 21 days of the period of self-isolation ending. Please see the self-isolation support scheme page to find out more.
People who are self-isolating may also be able to access help from voluntary organisations in their area if they do not have any friends or family who can help them with getting food and other essentials.
Does my employer have to let me self-isolate?
Yes. Employers should enable any employee who is required to self-isolate to do so. It is a legal requirement to self-isolate if requested to do so by Test, Trace, Protect and your employer must allow you to adhere to this. The self- isolation guidance provides information on the evidence that can be provided to your employer confirming the requirement for you to self-isolate.
Can I still work from home when isolating?
If you are able to work from home, then we encourage people to continue to do so wherever possible, if they are well enough. Your employer should support you to work from home as much as possible while isolating. If you cannot work from home, then you may be eligible for a self-isolation payment or for statutory sick pay due to COVID-19 (on GOV.UK).
Do I still need to self-isolate if I’ve previously had coronavirus?
Yes – the rules are the same for people who have previously had coronavirus as for everyone else. You might have some immunity to coronavirus, but it's not clear how long that immunity will last. You may therefore still be carrying the virus and at risk of passing it on to others.
If you previously had a positive test and get symptoms again, you must self-isolate immediately from when your symptoms started and for 10 days following and get a test. Tell the testing team that you have previously tested positive and on what date, as this might affect the interpretation of the new test result. All other vaccinated household members and those aged 5 to 17, must self-isolate and take a PCR test. If their test is negative they can stop isolating.
Those unvaccinated household members, must stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days until the test result is known. If the test is negative, you and other members of your household can stop self-isolating. If the test is positive you and all unvaccinated household members, will need to complete a full 10 day period of self-isolation.
Although rare, there are cases of reinfection from COVID-19. In general, reinfection means a person was infected once, recovered, and then later became infected again.
Do I need to wear a face covering?
Yes, in all indoor premises to which the public have access.
However, from 7 August 2021 it is no longer a legal requirement for you to wear face coverings in hospitality settings such as pubs, restaurants and cafes. This is because the purpose of attending those places is to eat and drink, for which a face covering is not practical and, therefore, not required. However, hospitality businesses should still consider whether or not the use of face coverings should be required in pinch point areas of their businesses as part of the assessment of risk of exposure to coronavirus on the premises, especially if other mitigations cannot be put in place.
If a business is multi-purpose, with food & drink one of the many reasons for a visit (e.g. a hotel with a restaurant, an indoor attraction with a café, an events or conference centre with a restaurant, a cinema or theatre with a bar), face coverings must still be worn by staff and customers in all areas of the business apart from the specific areas where food & drink are consumed.
From 28 August it will also no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face coverings for solemnisation of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or an alternative wedding ceremonies.
Who does the requirement apply to?
It applies to everyone aged 11 and over, unless an exception applies. Children under 11 do not have to wear face coverings.
It applies to staff working in indoor public areas and to members of the public entering those public areas.
Please visit our guidance (face coverings: guidance for public) for further information, including suitable face coverings, how to care for re-usable face coverings, how to safely dispose of disposable face coverings and if you think you may be exempt from wearing a face covering.