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How to self-isolate and look after yourself at home if there is possible coronavirus infection in your household.

First published:
19 March 2020
Last updated:

Who this guide is for

This advice is intended for:

  • people who have received a positive test result for COVID-19
  • people with symptoms of COVID-19 who are waiting for a test result, or who have not been tested and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home for the appropriate self-isolation period (further details below)
  • people living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 or who has received a positive test result for COVID-19
  • people of all ages including children.

Different rules apply when people come into Wales from abroad and have to self-isolate on return. Please see the separate guidance here.

Preventative self-isolation

People may be advised by their GP or hospital doctors to self-isolate as a precaution, either before a medical procedure, or afterwards. This is a different kind of self-isolation to that outlined in this guidance, which is about people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive for the virus. If you have been advised by your doctor to self-isolate as a precaution, it is to ensure that you are as well as possible for your medical procedure to go ahead, or to enable you to recover fully afterwards. 

What you can and can’t do during this kind of self-isolation depends on what your doctor has advised, and each case will be different. If you have any queries, you must ask the doctor who told you to self-isolate for their advice.

Key points

  • Self-isolation periods are for 10 or 14 days.
  • Self-isolation is for 10 days if you develop symptoms. People who develop symptoms should request a test. If the test is negative they can stop their self-isolation.
  • Self-isolation is for 10 days if you test positive for COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • Self-isolation is for 14 days if you live with someone or someone from your extended household has developed symptoms. If the person with symptoms then tests negative everyone can stop their self-isolation.
  • Self-isolation is for 14 days if you have been contacted by Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) to confirm you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Even if you have a test and it is negative you must still self-isolate for 14 days. This is because you are close contact of someone who has COVID-19 and the virus can take time to show in your system.
  • 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 a contact of someone who has tested positive, and you are notified by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect that you need to self-isolate.

This is a very brief summary. You must read all of this guidance for the full advice on what to do.

Symptoms

The most important symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of one or more of the following:

  • new continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of or change to your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

For most people, COVID-19 will be a mild illness. However, if you have any of the symptoms above you must self-isolate at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

When to seek medical advice if self-isolating

If anyone has symptoms or develops symptoms when self-isolating, it is important they do not try to cope for too long on their own before seeking medical assistance. They should contact NHS Wales 111 or their GP if:

  • their symptoms don’t improve after 7 days, or
  • they experience breathlessness or vomiting at any time, or
  • fatigue stops them doing their normal daily activities
  • a baby or a child under 5 has a temperature at any time

For a medical emergency, they should ring 999.

What do we mean by possible or confirmed coronavirus infection (COVID-19)?

  • Possible infection is where a person has COVID-19 symptoms and is currently awaiting a test result.
  • Confirmed infection is where a person has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you must self-isolate at home for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. (Please see section on when to seek medical advice). You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

If your test result is negative

You can end self-isolation immediately. 

If your test result is positive

You must ensure you remain at home and complete the self-isolation period of at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital (Note section on when to seek medical advice).

Following a positive test result

You will be contacted by a contact tracer on behalf of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service. You will only be contacted if you have had a positive test result.

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but have tested positive

You must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken. If you then develop symptoms during that 10 day self-isolation period, you must restart your 10-day isolation from the day you develop COVID-19 symptoms.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms and have tested positive

If you still have a temperature after completing your 10 day self-isolation period you must continue to self-isolate and seek medical advice. However, you do not need to continue to self-isolate after 10 days if you only have a cough or loss of smell or taste, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone. See the ending self-isolation section for more information.

When to seek medical advice if self-isolating

If anyone has symptoms or develops symptoms when self-isolating, it is important they do not try to cope for too long on their own before seeking medical assistance. They should contact NHS Wales 111 or their GP if:

  • their symptoms don’t improve after 7 days, or
  • they experience breathlessness or vomiting at any time, or
  • fatigue stops them doing their normal daily activities.
  • a baby or a child under 5 has a temperature at any time.

For a medical emergency, they should ring 999.

Where you have been identified as a contact of a positive COVID-19 case by the NHS Wales, Test, Trace, Protect service

A contact tracer on behalf of the service will advise you to only take a test if you become symptomatic during your 14 day self-isolation period. As a contact, your household does not need to self-isolate. However it is only if or when you develop symptoms, that the household has to self-isolate in line with the self-isolation guidance. Find out more about the Test, Trace, Protect service.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms as a confirmed contact, arrange a test and the test comes back negative

You should still complete your 14 day self-isolation period. It is very important that you follow these instructions even if you feel well, as symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear from your last contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you can infect others even if you don’t develop symptoms.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms as a confirmed contact, arrange a test and the test comes back positive

You should follow the same advice for people with COVID-19 symptoms, that is, after 10 days of your symptoms starting, if you feel better and no longer have symptoms other than cough or loss of or change to sense of smell or taste, you can return to your normal routine.

Living with other people and extended households

If you live with others, or are part of an extended household and someone has COVID-19 symptoms

The person with symptoms must self-isolate for at least 10 days and arrange a COVID-19 test straight away. All other household members and extended household members must self-isolate and not leave their home for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household or extended household became ill. 

Where people in an extended household arrangement with another household:

  • do not live with the confirmed case, or person with symptoms, within the extended household arrangement and
  • none of them have had any physical contact with that person for 14 days;

they do not need to self-isolate if it is 14 full days since the last physical contact. This is the only situation in which this exemption applies.

If the test result of the first person with symptoms is negative

The person who was tested, as well as everyone else in the household or extended household can leave self-isolation.

If the test result of the first person with symptoms is positive

That person must continue to self-isolate for the full 10 day period, and everyone else in the household or extended household must continue to self-isolate for the full 14 days as set out above.

If you live with others, or are part of an extended household and someone has been advised to take a test for COVID-19 even though they do not have symptoms

The person who is tested must self-isolate at home for 10 days from the day they were tested until the test result is known. All other household or extended household members must also self-isolate at home for 14 days until the test result of their household member is known.

If the test result of the household or extended household member is negative

The individual who was tested along with everyone else in the household or extended household can leave self-isolation immediately.

If the test result of the household or extended household member is positive

The individual who was tested must continue to self-isolate for the full 10-day period, and additionally everyone else in the household or extended household must continue to self-isolate for the full 14 day period.

If anyone else in the household or extended household starts displaying symptoms of COVID-19 during their 14 day self-isolation period

They must start a new period of self-isolation for at least 10 days from when their symptoms appear, regardless of what day they are in their original 14-day isolation period. The ending isolation section has more information.

Will my whole household be tested if one person has COVID-19 symptoms?

Only the person with COVID-19 symptoms will need to be tested. They must immediately self-isolate and arrange to have a test. They must stay home whilst they await the result of the test. All other household or extended household members will not be tested but must start a 14 day self-isolation period. They must stay home whilst they await the result of their household or extended household member’s test result.

Contact by the Test, Trace, Protect Service in Wales

People who have tested positive will be contacted by a contact tracer on behalf of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service. You will only be contacted after you have had a positive test result. Advice on what then happens in respect of others you live with and any of your contacts can be found in the Test, Trace, Protect guidance.

Read ending self-isolation and/or household-isolation for further information.

Legal requirement for self-isolation

Employers should not require you to go back to work if you have been notified by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect that you need to isolate because you have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, they should enable or allow you to stay at home.

You are committing an offence if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a notification from NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect that you need to self-isolate because you have had a positive test result for COVID-19, or been in close contact of someone who has tested positive.

It is also an offence to knowingly provide false information about your close contacts to NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect.

Failure to comply with the isolation requirements or providing false information may result in a Fixed Penalty Notice or prosecution action. These requirements are set out in the Regulations.

Ending self-isolation and household or extended household isolation

Ending self-isolation for those who have tested positive for COVID-19

If you have had a positive test, then You may end your self-isolation after 10 days and return to your normal routine if you do not have ongoing symptoms other than cough or loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste. This is because a cough or change to or loss of smell or taste can last for several weeks once the infection has gone. However, if you still have a high temperature, however, you should keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal and seek medical advice.

After 10 days if you just have a cough or change to or loss of smell or taste you do not need to continue to self-isolate. This is because a cough or change to or loss of smell or taste can last for several weeks once the infection has gone. The 10 day period starts from the day when you first became ill.

You should not, however, end your self-isolation after 10 days if you still have symptoms other than a cough or loss of or change to your sense of smell or taste. You are advised to contact NHS Wales 111 or your GP if during your 10 days self-isolation period:

  • your symptoms don’t improve after 7 days, or
  • you experience breathlessness or vomiting at any time, or
  • fatigue stops you doing your normal daily activities.
  • a baby or a child under 5 has a temperature at any time.

If you continue to feel unwell after 10 days and have not already sought medical advice, you should contact NHS 111 Wales online. If your home has no internet access, you should or call 111. For a medical emergency you should dial 999.

Ending self-isolation for those who have received a negative test result

 If you have had a negative test, then you may end your self-isolation when you are notified of the negative result even if you still have symptoms.

Ending self-isolation if you are a household or extended household member

If you have not developed COVID-19 symptoms during your 14 day household isolation period you may end your isolation after those 14 days and return to your normal routine. 

If, however, during your 14 day household isolation period you develop COVID-19 symptoms you must follow the advice provided in this guidance for individuals with symptoms and start a 10 day period of self-isolation and arrange to be tested. 

Ending self-isolation if you have been contacted by Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) to confirm you have been in close contact with someone who has been tested positive for COVID-19

You must self-isolate for 14 days. Even if you have a test and the result of that test is negative, you must still self-isolate for the full 14 days as advised. This is because you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 and the virus can take up to 14 days to show in your system.

Children

Self-isolation applies to children of all ages as well as adults. Some of these instructions will be difficult to achieve fully if there is a child in the household. It is important to take decisions in the overall best interests of the child, balancing their needs, level of understanding and cooperation with the important need to control COVID-19 infection. 

While you are staying at home, make sure you do the following things

Stay at home

You and everyone else in your household must remain at home for the whole time you are self-isolating. Do not go to work, school, shops, anyone else’s house, public places or places of worship, and do not use public transport or taxis.

Nobody should go out even to buy food or other essentials and any exercise must be taken within your home or private outdoor area such as a garden. If you have no access to private outdoor space, you may take exercise outside for up to 1 hour, including dog walking, providing you choose quiet areas, do not touch external surfaces or items (eg gates, doors, hire bikes) and do not come within 2m of any other person. People with certain health conditions or disabilities may need to go out more than once a day, accompanied by their carers if appropriate. Examples of conditions include learning disabilities, autism, dementia or other mental health conditions. They and their carers should follow the advice above.

If you require help with buying groceries, other shopping or picking up medication, you should ask friends or family.

Alternatively, 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.

Further guidance on accessing help is available.

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.

  • Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window to the outside that can be opened, separate from other people in your home if this is possible. Keep the door closed.
  • Use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household, if available. If you have to share these facilities, regular cleaning will be required. If a separate bathroom is not available, you should use the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom.
  • Use separate towels from other household members, both for drying yourself after bathing or showering 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.
  • Use a dishwasher (if available) to clean and dry your used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them by hand using detergent and warm water and dry them thoroughly, using a separate tea towel.

After ending self-isolation and/or household isolation

What to do if you have another episode of COVID-19 symptoms after the end of your first period of self- or household isolation

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms again at any point after ending your first period of isolation (self or household) then you need to follow the same guidance on self-isolation again. The same rules apply for anyone in your household or extended household.

If you previously tested positive for COVID-19 and have another episode of symptoms, do you need to self-isolate again?

If you have previously tested positive but develop symptoms again, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days from onset of symptoms and arrange to have a test. If you live in a household, all other household members must stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days. You will need to follow this guidance on self-isolation from the start again.

If you are concerned about your new possible COVID-19 symptoms (a new, continuous cough or a high temperature or loss of or change to smell or taste), use the NHS 111 Wales coronavirus service or call 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

Managing self-isolation

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay as far away from other members of your household as possible (see  avoid contact with other members of your household as much as possible section). It is especially important to stay away from anyone in your household who is at increased risk from COVID-19 or those who were previously shielding (see the if you have a vulnerable person living with you section).

If you have a vulnerable person living with you

If you can, arrange for anyone who is at increased risk from COVID-19 or extremely vulnerable (formerly shielding) to move out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of 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 must stay away from them as much as possible.

Those who are at increased risk or extremely vulnerable should be helped 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. Follow the advice above on avoiding contact with others as strictly as possible to protect anyone in your household who is at increased risk or extremely vulnerable. They should also follow the same rules to protect themselves.

Reduce the spread of infection in your home

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.

Cleaning and disposal of waste

When cleaning you should use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach, as these will be very effective at getting rid of the virus on surfaces. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as 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 securely within 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.

Laundry

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 a further 72 hours after your self- isolation has ended when you can then take the laundry to a public launderette.

Do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels.

Face coverings

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing (2 metres) rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly.

Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures, but in some circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2 metres away from others, we are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings for those aged 11 and over. Younger children may use face coverings if they wish, but they should never be used on children under age 3 on breathing safety grounds.

This is in line with the World Health Organisation’s latest technical advice.

Face coverings should be made up of three layers as set out by the World Health Organization but do not need to be medical-grade face masks.

Used correctly, a face covering may help to protect others by reducing the transmission of COVID-19.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test result and you live with others, consider using a face covering inside your home when spending time in shared parts of the household. You must still avoid contact with other members of the household as much as possible. You must still stay at home for at least 10 days from when your COVID-19 symptoms started or from the date of your test. Wearing a face covering does not replace this.

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.

We have made the wearing of face coverings in indoor public places compulsory. However, this does not apply to self-isolation in your own home.

Read further guidance on the use of face coverings.

Read about the requirement to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales.

Do not have visitors in your home

Do not invite or allow social visitors, such as other friends and family, to enter your home whilst you and other family members 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 family member 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.

If you are 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 at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website.

If you have 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.

Advice for pet owners.

What you can do to help yourself get better

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.

If you or your family need to seek medical advice

If anyone has symptoms or develops symptoms when self-isolating, it is important they do not try to cope for too long on their own before seeking medical assistance. They should contact NHS Wales 111 or their GP if:

  • their symptoms don’t improve after 7 days, or
  • they experience breathlessness or vomiting at any time, or
  • fatigue stops them doing their normal daily activities.
  • a baby or a child under 5 has a temperature at any time.

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

All routine medical and dental appointments should usually be cancelled whilst you and the family are self-isolating at home. If you are concerned or have been asked to attend in person within the period you are self-isolating, discuss this with your medical contact first (for example, your GP, local hospital or outpatient service), using the number they have provided. If your concerns are related to your COVID-19 symptoms contact NHS 111 Wales online coronavirus service. If you have no internet access, you should call 111.

Information for employees

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19, you could get support for help. Find out what support you could get if you are employed or self-employed

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 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 or have been formally 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.

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

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.

If someone is notified to self-isolate for 14 days because they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, they will be provided with written confirmation of the instruction to self-isolate which they can share with their employers.