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What you should do if you have COVID-19 symptoms, have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19.

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First published:
19 March 2020
Last updated:

Main points

COVID-19 has not gone away and is likely to remain with us globally.

Even though restrictions have been lifted, you should do all you can to keep yourself and others safe.

Help us to continue to disrupt the transmission of the virus by:

  • self-isolating when you feel unwell
  • wearing masks in crowded places
  • keeping up to date with your vaccinations

Continuing with protective behaviours is important and will help to minimise exposure to and spread of COVID-19, as well as other respiratory infections and other diseases

What you should do if you have symptoms of COVID-19

If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and take a lateral flow test (LFT)  

You can order LFTs online or call 119 between 7am and 11pm (calls are free)

Continue to self-isolate until you get your LFT test result

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are

  • a high temperature
  • a continuous cough
  • loss or change of taste or smell

If you have a negative LFT test

You can leave self-isolation immediately.

If you test positive on any COVID-19 test (PCR or LFT)

  • You should self-isolate for 5 full days. Day 1 is the day after your symptoms started or the day after you had the test, if you do not have symptoms (whichever is earlier).
  • Take a lateral flow test (LFT) on day 5.

If the day 5 LFT is negative

  • Report your LFT result.
  • You should take another LFT on day 6.
  • If your day 6 is also negative and you do not have a high temperature, you can leave self-isolation on day 6 as the risk you are still infectious is much lower and you can safely return to your normal routine.
  • If you still have a high temperature or feel unwell, you should continue to self-isolate until it returns to normal, or you feel better.

If the day 5 or 6 LFT test is positive

  • Report your LFT result.
  • You should continue taking daily LFTs until you get 2 negative tests in a row, taken a day apart, or until day 10 – whichever is sooner.
  • You do not need a negative LFT test on day 10 to leave self-isolation.
  • If you still have a high temperature or feel unwell, you should continue to self-isolate until it returns to normal, or you feel better.

If you do not have symptoms but you test positive

You may be advised to take a PCR or LFT as part of workplace arrangements.

If you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 (within the last 90 days) you should take a LFT instead of a PCR. This is because there is a risk that a PCR test may detect residual traces of the virus leftover in your body. 

If your test result is positive, you should self-isolate and follow the above self-isolation guidance.

Summary of how the 5 day isolation rule works
Days Action
0 Your symptoms begin or you test positive
1 Start counting self-isolation days
2  
3  
4  
5 Start home testing with lateral flow tests
6 From day 6 to day 8 you can end self-isolation if you have 2 negative tests on 2 consecutive days
7  
8  
9

 

10 No more testing required and can leave self-isolation on day 10

NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect

If you test positive, the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service may contact you. They will call from 029 2196 1133, or text or email from NHSWALESTTP to give you advice on self-isolation. 

They will need to find out who you have been in close contact with recently. You may choose to complete contact tracing through an online form (eform), and they will send a secure one-time code to you via text message.

This will include the link to the eform you need to complete. It is important that you complete the form as quickly as possible and provide details of your contacts so they receive the correct advice.

Please complete the occupation / key worker status sections and work and educational locations, as this information will help to spot cluster areas. If you are a student or pupil, please answer the question ‘What is your job title?’ by selecting ‘Student’ and use the postcode of your place of learning for the employer’s address field. If you have multiple jobs and/or places of learning, please provide the address you attend most frequently under workplace and include the others in the places you have visited.

If you cannot complete the eform, a contact tracer will attempt to call you by phone. Read more information about contact tracing.

Leaving self-isolation

To reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 on to others, after leaving self-isolation after 5 full days and 2 negative LFTs you should:

  • try and minimise contact with others and avoid crowded settings particularly indoor settings
  • if you are visiting vulnerable people in places such as care homes or hospitals, you should follow the relevant visitor guidance
  • work from home if you are not already doing so and are practically able to
  • pay extra attention to hand washing and wearing a face covering

There is additional guidance for those working in health and social care and special educational provision.

Shared parental responsibility

Try to avoid moving a child with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive, between households. This may increase the spread of the virus.

If possible the child should stay with one household during the self-isolation period. If this is not possible, the child should continue to self-isolate for 5 full days as described above. Close contacts in both households should follow the guidance above.

Children under the age of 5

Children under 5 do not need to take a test, even if they have COVID-19 symptoms. They can take a test if a doctor advises it, or if a parent believes a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of a child.

If they have symptoms, they do not need to self-isolate. They should stay home until they are well enough to return to school or childcare setting.

If a child takes a test and it is positive, they should self-isolate for at least 5 full days. The child and contacts need to follow the guidance above.

People sitting GCSE, AS, A Level and vocational examinations

We want to enable learners to take their exams, well and safely.

  • If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and take a lateral flow test (LFT).
  • If the test is positive, you should self-isolate for at least 3 full days. Day 1 is the day after your symptoms started. Please report your result.
  • On day 3, if your symptoms have stopped, take a LFT. If that test is negative, take another LFT on day 4. 
  • If your day 4 test is also negative, and you feel well and do not have a high temperature, you can leave self-isolation to sit your exam. Please report your results.
  • If either the test on day 3 or the test on day 4 is positive, you should remain in self-isolation and contact your school or education setting. 
  • If you still have a high temperature or feel unwell, you should continue to self-isolate until it returns to normal, or you feel better. 
  • You should continue taking daily LFTs until you get 2 negative tests in a row, taken a day apart, or until day 10 – whichever is sooner. You do not need a negative LFT test on day 10 to leave self-isolation.

Close contacts

People who are at the highest risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 are the persons who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 can make anyone seriously unwell but for some people the risk is higher. For most of these people, this risk is significantly reduced by vaccination. People who are known to be at higher risk from COVID-19 include:

  • older people
  • those who are pregnant
  • those who are unvaccinated
  • people of any age who have a severely weakened immune system
  • people of any age with certain long-term conditions

You will not always know whether someone you come into contact with outside your home is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell. They could be strangers (for example people you sit next to on public transport) or people you may have regular contact with (for example friends and work colleagues). This means it is important to follow the advice to keep others safe.

A close contact is anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

  • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a conversation within 1 metre
  • skin-to-skin physical contact for any length of time
  • contact within 1 metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • contact within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (as a one-off contact, or added up together over 1 day)
  • travelled in the same vehicle or a plane

Contact tracers gather information from positive cases to identify close contacts in order to provide them with advice and guidance on what to do.

What you should do if you are identified as a close contact

If you are notified that you have been identified as a close contact by NHS Test, Trace Protect via email or text, or by someone who has tested positive directly, you do not need to self-isolate but should be vigilant for the main COVID-19 symptoms and:

  • pay close attention to the main symptoms of COVID-19. If you develop any of these symptoms, order a LFT test. You are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people while you are waiting for your test result
  • minimise contact with the person who has COVID-19
  • work from home if you are able to do so
  • avoid contact with anyone you know who is at higher risk of becoming severely unwell if they are infected with COVID-19, especially those with a severely weakened immune system
  • limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
  • wear a well-fitting face covering made with multiple layers in indoor crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where you are in close contact with other people
  • wash your hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes

You should follow this advice for 10 days after being in contact with the person who tested positive.

Health and social care staff and those working in special educational provision

If you work in health and social care or a special educational provision, you should:

Your employer may ask you to take tests as a precaution or be redeployed to a role where you are not facing individuals who have higher clinical risks. You may also be instructed not to attend work.

During your self-isolation period

You should stay at home for the whole time you are self-isolating. You should also follow this advice if you have a positive LFT result, even if you do not have any symptoms.

You should not:

  • go to work
  • go to school
  • go to the shops (even to buy food or essentials)
  • go to anyone else’s house
  • go to public places or places of worship
  • use public transport or taxis
  • go out to exercise
  • have visitors in your home (unless you or a member of your household receives essential care, then carers should continue to visit and use their facemasks and gloves to reduce the risk of you passing on the infection)

Treating COVID-19 symptoms at home

  • Drink water to keep yourself hydrated (drink enough during the day, so your urine (pee) is a pale clear colour)
  • Use over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol, to help with some of your COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if you need it.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media. There are also sources of support and information that can help, such as the Every Mind Matters website.

Medical appointments

You should:

  • cancel all medical and dental appointments whilst you or your household are self-isolating
  • call your GP, local hospital or outpatient service if you have been asked to attend in person whilst you are self-isolating
  • if your concerns are related to your COVID-19 symptoms contact NHS 111 Wales online COVID-19 service. If you have no internet access, you should call 111. Rydym yn croesawu galwadau’n Gymraeg / We welcome calls in Welsh

If you need to leave your home

The most effective way to avoid passing on COVID-19 infection is to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. You should think carefully about whether you have an alternative to leaving self-isolation. If you have to leave home and have no alternative, you should stay away from home for the shortest possible time. You should take every possible precaution to avoid infecting others.

This includes:

  • maintaining the greatest possible distance from other people
  • limit close contact with other people outside your household as much as possible
  • meet outside and try and stay at least 2 metres apart from them
  • avoid close contact with anyone you know who is at higher risk of becoming severely unwell if they are infected with COVID-19, especially those with a severely weakened immune system
  • avoid crowded places and public transport. If you need to take public transport, avoid busy times, for example by using off peak services
  • wearing a face covering
  • avoid large social gatherings and events, or anywhere that is poorly ventilated, crowded, or enclosed
  • take any exercise outdoors in places where you will not have contact with other people
  • be especially careful with your hand and respiratory hygiene

You should consider telling others that you may come into contact with that you are self-isolating. (Such as emergency appointments). This helps to enable social distancing and protect vulnerable staff members.

If you need medical advice

Do not try to cope for too long on your own before getting medical help. Contact NHS 111 Wales or your GP if you experience any of the following:

  • symptoms that do not improve after 7 days
  • breathlessness or vomiting at any time
  • fatigue that stops you doing your normal daily activities
  • babies or children under 5 who have a temperature at any time

If it is a medical emergency dial 999 and tell the call handler or operator that you or your relative have COVID-19 symptoms.

Getting help whilst self-isolating

If you need help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, you should ask friends or family. You can order medication by phone or online. You can also order your shopping online. Make sure you tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if you order online. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

Employment and self-isolation

Although they are no longer legally required to conduct a specific coronavirus risk assessment, businesses, employers and event organisers should consider the risks associated with coronavirus in the same way as they do for all other communicable diseases (for example flu and norovirus).

We advise all businesses, employers and event organisers to continue to implement effective public health control measures to protect workers, contractors, visitors and customers from exposure to and spread of coronavirus. The most effective way of preventing the spread of any communicable disease in any premises is to prevent the virus being present in the first place. 

Staff should self-isolate and take a lateral flow test if they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. They should not return to work during the self-isolation period if they test positive or if the results of the tests taken on day 5 or 6 of their self-isolation period are positive, in order to prevent the virus spreading to others.

Employers should consider what action they should take if a staff member is self-isolating while waiting for lateral flow test results when symptomatic or because they have tested positive for COVID-19. What is reasonable will depend on a number of factors, including, in relation to whether it is feasible for the work to be carried out from home (also see the public health advice above on working from home).

With recording sickness, we have recommended to employers that self-isolation should not be recorded against an employee’s sickness record.

Help and financial advice whilst self-isolating

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19, you could get support for help.

Financial support if you cannot work

You should tell your employer if you cannot work whilst self-isolating. You may be covered by their sick leave or special leave policy.

If you cannot get sick pay from your employer, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay or another type of financial support.

Find out more about Statutory Sick Pay, including eligibility and how to claim on GOV.UK.

Self-isolation (support scheme) payment

If you are on low-income and cannot work from home whilst self-isolating, you could get a payment of £500 to help with loss of earnings. You can only apply for the payment if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for the Self-isolation payment.

Get a self-isolation note for your employer

If your employer has asked for a self-isolation note, use the COVID-19 symptom checker on NHS 111 Wales. The self-isolation notes are only available to patients who are advised to self-isolate by the online symptom checker. The self-isolation note generates a Unique Reference Number (URN) which an employer will be able to use to verify that your note is genuine.

Please do not call 111 as the call handlers will be unable to assist you.

If you still feel unwell after 5 full days, you should contact your GP. This may result in your GP issuing a fit note (amongst other investigative actions) which you will need to give to your employer.

If you have arranged to get a test for COVID-19 and the result is positive you will receive written notification of your positive status from TTP. This will also confirm your need to self-isolate for at least 5 full days. This can be shared with your employer.

NHS COVID-19 app

The NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of our Test, Trace, Protect programme. The app contains the latest guidance on Covid 19 including information specific to your postcode area. The app notifies people if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19.

The app helps the NHS understand if the virus is spreading in a particular area. It helps local authorities to respond quickly to stop it spreading further.

The app does this while protecting a user’s anonymity. Nobody, including the government, will know who or where a particular user is. The app does not hold any information which could directly identify you. For example, your name, address, or date of birth.

The app cannot:

  • track your location
  • monitor whether you are self-isolating
  • access your personal identity
  • access any other information on your phone.

More information including Terms of Use and Privacy Notice are available in the “About this app” section on the NHS COVID-19 App.

The app is available for download from the Apple app store or Google Play.

Ways to avoid spreading COVID-19 to people you live with

Avoid contact with other members of your household as much as possible

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive, it is important to reduce the spread of infection to others in your household as much as possible. You should:

  • stay in a well-ventilated room separate from other people in your home, with an outside window that can be opened
  • keep the door closed
  • use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household if possible
  • clean the bathroom regularly if you have to share these facilities, or try to use the facilities last and thoroughly clean the bathroom
  • use separate towels from other household members, for drying yourself and for hand hygiene purposes
  • avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens whilst others are present
  • take your meals back to your room to eat
  • wash your dishes using detergent and warm water and dry them, using a separate tea towel from the rest of the household, or use a dishwasher
  • wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer
  • cover your coughs and sneezes, dispose of any tissues and wash your hands immediately
  • consider using a face covering in shared parts of the household if you live with others (face coverings should never be used on children under age 3 on breathing safety grounds)
  • clean using usual products but pay close attention to regular touch-points such as door handles, hand rails, remote controls and table tops
  • avoid shaking dirty laundry, as this can cause virus particles to disperse through the air. If you have to take your laundry to a public laundrette, wait 72 hours after your self-isolation has ended.

If you have a vulnerable person living with you

During the self-isolation period you should help those who are:

  • at increased risk or
  • extremely vulnerable

to minimise their contact with other people in your household. This is regardless of whether other household members have symptoms or not. You can also use this advice to protect all the people you live with.

If you can, arrange for anyone who is at increased risk from COVID-19 or clinically extremely vulnerable (those previously on the shielding patient list) to move out of your home. They could stay with friends or family for the self-isolation periods that you complete at home.

If you cannot arrange for those vulnerable people to move out of your home, you should stay away from them as much as possible.

Breastfeeding while infected

There is currently no evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted through breast milk. Infection can be spread to the baby in the same way as to anyone in close contact with you. There is more information on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.

Pets in the household

At this time, there is no evidence that pets can transmit the disease to humans. However, you should wash your hands after handling your pets or their waste. Read our advice for pet owners