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.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and take a PCR test as soon as possible. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 you must self-isolate and follow the guidance below.
You can leave self-isolation after 7 full days (on day 8 of your self-isolation period).
You should take a lateral flow test (LFT) on day 6 of your self-isolation period and another lateral flow test 24 hours later. This is to check if you remain infectious and could pass COVID-19 on to others.
You should not take a LFT before the sixth day of your self-isolation period because the risks of remaining infectious and the chances of passing it on to others before this period is significantly higher.
If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should follow this guidance. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are legally required to self-isolate as a close contact for 10 days.
If you are a close contact, self-isolation and what tests you should take will depend on
- your vaccination status
- your age
- your occupation
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation means not leaving your home because you have or might have COVID-19.
You are legally required to self-isolate on notification of a positive test result. If you do not, you are committing an offence and could get a fixed penalty notice of up to £1,920 or be prosecuted in court, which can lead to an unlimited fine.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19
If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as possible. This applies even if you have mild symptoms or if you have tested positive before.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- a high temperature
- a continuous cough
- loss or change of taste or smell
If you have had a positive lateral flow test, you should report the result, self-isolate and follow self-isolation guidance. You no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test (unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment, or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme).
If your test result is positive
If the result is positive, you must self-isolate from the day your symptoms started and for at least 7 full days. If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day you had the test, if you do not have symptoms) and the next 7 full days. If you develop symptoms within your isolation period, the 7 days self-isolation starts again from the day after your symptoms started.
The NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service will either contact you by phone from 029 2196 1133, or by 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. Read more information about contact tracing.
You can leave self-isolation after 7 full days (on day 8 of your self-isolation period). Day 1 is the day immediately following the day your symptoms started. If you do not have any symptoms or are unsure, you should count from the day immediately following the date you took your test. On day 6 of your self-isolation period you should take a LFT and another test 24 hours later.
This is to check if you remain infectious and therefore could pass COVID-19 on to others. You should not take an LFT before the sixth day of your self-isolation period because the risks of remaining infectious and the chances of passing the virus on to others before this period is significantly higher.
If both your LFT test results are negative you can leave self-isolation after 7 full days. To further reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 on to others, after leaving self-isolation after 7 full days you should:
- not visit vulnerable people such as those in care homes or hospitals and disclose your status if it is absolutely necessary to attend such places
- try and minimise contact with others and avoid crowded settings particularly indoor settings
- work from home if you are not already doing so
- pay extra attention to hand washing and wearing a face covering
You should follow this advice until 10 full days from when your self-isolation period started.
When should I remain in self-isolation?
If either of the LFTs taken on day 6 or day 7 is positive, you should remain in self-isolation until 2 negative LFTs or after day 10 whichever is sooner. A positive result indicates that you are likely to still be infectious and the risk of you passing on coronavirus to others is high. If the result of the LFT test you take on day 6 is positive, wait 24 hours before you take the next test.
If you still have a high temperature after 7 full days, even if the LFT is negative, you should continue to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal.
You do not need to continue self-isolating for more than 7 days if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell or taste. These symptoms can last for several weeks following a COVID-19 infection.
If you do not have symptoms, but you test positive
You may be advised to take a PCR or LFT if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. This could also be part of workplace arrangements.
If you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 (within the last 90 days) you should firstly 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 must self-isolate from the day of your test and for the next 7 days. As set out above, you should take LFTs on or after day 6 and 7 to check if you are still infectious before leaving self-isolation.
If your original positive result was from a LFT, you should report the result, self-isolate and follow the above self-isolation guidance. You no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test (unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment, or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme).
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 on a particular situation when identifying close contacts. They will consider any mitigating measures that have been put in place. These may include protective screens for example. Not all contacts, activities, or environments have an equal risk of transmission. Contacts who work in health and social care who have correctly worn specific medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will not be considered as a contact. There are also a small number of other professional roles, including first responders, front-line emergency workers and immigration enforcement officers, who operate with specific medical PPE.
Face coverings (including disposable masks) or visors are not classed as PPE. They are not considered to be a mitigating factor in determining a contact. The decision on whether you will be determined to be a contact and asked to self-isolate will be assessed on a case by case basis. The contact tracer will advise them that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
If you are a close contact, self-isolation and testing requirements will depend on:
- your vaccination status
- your age
- your occupation
Fully vaccinated in this context means:
- you have been vaccinated with a Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved COVID-19 vaccine and received your vaccine in the UK
- at least 14 days have passed since you received the recommended doses of the vaccine
- you have participated in, or are participating in, a clinical trial of a vaccine for vaccination against COVID-19 carried out in the United Kingdom in accordance with the requirements of the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004(2).
You do not need to have received a booster vaccination to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of self-isolation rules.
If you are 18 and over, and not fully vaccinated, you must self-isolate from the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 and for the next 10 days.
You should also take a LFT test on day 2 and day 8. It is important that you take the tests even if you feel well as you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.
Even if these tests are negative, you should complete the isolation period. This is because if you have been infected, it can take time for symptoms to develop or to become infectious to others.
If you are not able to be vaccinated for a clinical reason, you must self-isolate for 10 days, even if you get a negative lateral flow test result.
Fully vaccinated adults and young people aged between 5 and 17
If you are a fully vaccinated adult or aged between 5 and 17 you do not need to self-isolate if identified as a close contact but you are strongly advised to:
- take a LFT every day unless you cannot conduct an LFT for medical reasons) for 7 days or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier
- take this daily test before you leave the house for the first time that day
- upload all tests results on GOV.UK even if negative or void. This helps improve our understanding of infection rates across the UK and helps inform how we manage the pandemic to keep people safe whilst keeping life as normal as possible
The tests are free.
You can get LFTs by:
- using any unused stocks of LFTs that you may have at home. Please do not stockpile tests
- collecting from an education setting (school/university/college etc.) or workplace setting under agreed schemes
- collecting from a pharmacy or a local collection point: Find your nearest pharmacy or collection point and opening times (on nhs.uk)
- by ordering online for home delivery: Order rapid lateral flow home test kits on GOV.UK. You can order 1 home testing kit (7 tests) at a time. Delivery takes 2 days
To further reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 on to others, you are advised to:
- inform your employer that you are a contact of a case of COVID-19
You should follow this advice for 10 full days after your most recent contact with the person who has tested positive with COVID-19 or the end of a positive household member’s self-isolation period.
If any of these LFT tests are positive you should report the result and must self-isolate for at least 7 days starting from the date the LFT test was taken. You no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test (unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment, or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme).
Shared parental responsibility
Parents and guardians should try to avoid moving a child with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive, between households as this may increase the spread of the virus.
If a child tests positive both households may not be required to self-isolate unless the child tests positive and shared parental access has been within 5 days of the onset of symptoms or positive test result. The self-isolation requirements of contacts will depend on vaccination status and age.
If it is not possible to stay with one household, the child must continue to self-isolate for 7 full days and can leave self-isolation after day 7. Close contacts in both households will need to follow the self-isolation guidance.
Children under the age of 5
Children under 5 do not need to take a PCR or a LFT, 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 or if they have been a close contact of a positive case, they do not need to complete any mandatory period of self-isolation. They should stay home until they are well enough to return to school or childcare setting.
If a child under 5 has symptoms, other household members do not need to isolate unless the child takes a test and has a positive result. If a child does take a test and the result is positive, then the child must self-isolate for at least 7 days and the child and contacts need to follow the self-isolation guidance.
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 take additional precautions before attending work.
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 and everyone in your household who is not exempt must stay at home for the whole time you are self-isolating.
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
There are some exceptional reasons when you can leave your home when you are self-isolating:
- 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
- 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 get basic necessities, but only if nobody else can do this for you and you cannot get them delivered
- 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
Although you are allowed to leave home for these very limited purposes, you should think carefully about whether you have an alternative to doing so.
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, avoiding public transport, and wearing a face covering. You should consider telling others that you may come into contact with (such as emergency appointments listed above) that you are self-isolating. This helps them make the necessary arrangements to enable social distancing and protect vulnerable staff members.
You should cancel all medical and dental appointments whilst you or your household are self-isolating. You should 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.
If you need medical advice
It is important that anyone who has or develops symptoms whilst self-isolating does not try to cope for too long on their own before getting medical help. You should 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.
The NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of our Test, Trace, Protect programme to control the spread of COVID-19. The app is used, alongside traditional contact tracing, to notify people if they come into contact with someone who later tests positive for COVID-19.
The app allows people to report symptoms, order a COVID-19 test, and check in to venues by scanning a QR code.
The app helps the NHS understand if the virus is spreading in a particular area, and so local authorities can 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.
Legal status of the App
App users are not included in the legal duty to self-isolate if they receive an app close contact notification. This is because the app is an anonymous tool and the privacy of app users is protected.
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 or any other information on your phone.
Self-isolation Support Scheme applications can still be made for eligible app users if you are required to self-isolate.
Employment and self-isolation
Business, employers and other organisations have a duty to protect their employees and customers. Employers by law have a duty to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19. Reasonable measures include enabling workers to self-isolate when required because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive and they are not fully vaccinated.
In no circumstances should you return to work during the self-isolation period or if the results of the tests you take on day 6 or 7 are positive.
If as a result of an employer’s action, a person fails to self-isolate when required to do so, the employer may be guilty of an offence and could face a fine up to £10,000.
With recording sickness, it is recommended that self-isolation should not be recorded against an employee’s sickness record.
There are a wide range of things that may need to be put in place to lower risks. These are set out in more detail in guidance for employers, businesses and organisations.
Help and financial advice whilst self-isolating
Employers should not require you to go back to work if you have been notified by NHS Wales TTP that you need to self-isolate. They should enable or allow you to stay at home. This includes if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
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 £750 to help with loss of earnings. You can only apply for the payment, if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace Protect service.
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 7 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 7 days. This can be shared with your employer.
If TTP tells you to self-isolate as a close contact of someone who tested positive, you can be given written confirmation of this. You can share this with your employer.
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, it is important to reduce the spread of infection to others in your household as much as possible.
If 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
If you have a vulnerable person living with you
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 and your other household members need to 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.
You should help those who are at increased risk or extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with other people in your household during the self-isolation period. 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.
Wash your hands often
Clean your hands frequently by washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or using hand sanitiser. This will help protect you and the people you live with. This is one of the most effective ways of reducing the risk of passing infection to others.
Cover your coughs and sneezes
Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. If you do not have one to hand, sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand. Dispose of tissues into a disposable rubbish bag and immediately wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser.
If you have a carer they should use disposable tissues to wipe away any mucus or phlegm after you have sneezed or coughed. Then they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive and you live with others, consider using a face covering when spending time in shared parts of the household. You should still avoid contact with other members of the household as much as possible. Wearing a face covering does not replace this.
Younger children may use face coverings if they wish, but they should never be used on children under age 3 on breathing safety grounds.
People who are self-isolating, and members of their household, should double bag disposable face coverings and store them for 72 hours before putting them in a ‘black bag’ waste bin. Reusable face coverings should be washed after use with your usual laundry.
Cleaning and disposing of waste
When cleaning you should use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach. These will be very effective at getting rid of the virus on surfaces. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces like door handles, handrails, remote controls and table tops. This is particularly important if you have an “at risk” or extremely vulnerable person in your home. Clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example by wiping the surfaces you have touched.
Personal waste (such as used tissues or nappies) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored separately in disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin.
Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.
To minimise the possibility of dispersing virus through the air, do not shake dirty laundry. Wash items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. All dirty laundry can be washed in the same load.
If you do not have a washing machine, wait 72 hours after your self-isolation has ended before you take the laundry to a public launderette.
Do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels.
Do not have visitors in your home
You should not invite or allow anyone to enter your home whilst you or other members of your household are self-isolating. If you want to speak to someone who is not a member of your household, use the phone or social media.
If you or a member of our household receive essential care in your home then carers should continue to visit. Carers will be provided with facemasks and gloves to reduce the risk of you passing on the infection.
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.
If you or a family member are feeding with formula or expressed milk, you should sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You should not share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.
You can find more information if you or someone you live with is breastfeeding or pregnant 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.
Treating COVID-19 symptoms at home
Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. You should drink enough during the day so your urine (pee) is a pale clear colour. You can use over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol, to help with some of your COVID-19 symptoms. Use these according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not exceed the recommended dose.
It is important to 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.