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How and when you and your household need to self-isolate if you have symptoms, tested positive, or have been in contact with somebody who has COVID-19.

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First published:
19 March 2020
Last updated:

Main points

If you have any coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change of taste or smell), you must self-isolate at home and get a test. You must not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

The self-isolation period is 10 days.

Self-isolation means that you do not leave the house. You must self-isolate straight away if you have symptoms, arranging a test or are identified as a contact.

If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service you must stay at home. You are breaking the law and could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate.

If you’ve had the coronavirus vaccine but have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate you must still self-isolate.

Self-isolation applies to adults and children of all ages. You should self-isolate for 10 days if:

  • you develop symptoms, this means you may have coronavirus
  • you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, even if you do not have symptoms
  • you live with someone, or someone from your extended household has developed symptoms or tested positive
  • you’ve been contacted by the TTP service and told to self-isolate because you have been identified as a contact of a positive case of coronavirus

If you need medical advice

It is important that anyone who has or develops symptoms when 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 have a temperature at any time

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

Calculating your self-isolation period

In this guidance we refer to 10 days self-isolation. Day 1 will be the day immediately following the day you first have symptoms. If you do not have symptoms but are advised to take a test then day 1 is the day immediately following the day you take the test.

However, you must start self-isolation immediately from the day you first have symptoms or as soon as you are advised to take a test.

Anyone else in the household or extended household of a person with symptoms or who has been advised to take a test must follow exactly the same self-isolation period.

If TTP contact you and advise you to self-isolate, you must start this immediately. They will tell you how to count the 10 days self-isolation, and what you, your household and extended household need to do.

When to self-isolate

If you are coming to Wales from abroad, you may have to self-isolate when you arrive. We have separate guidance on how to self-isolate when you travel to Wales.

If you need to self-isolate before or after a medical procedure, your GP or hospital doctor will tell you and will explain what you will need to do. You must follow their advice. If you have any queries, you must speak to your doctor.

If you have symptoms or tested positive

Self-isolate at home for at least 10 days

You should self-isolate for 10 days if you have any symptoms or have tested positive but do not have any symptoms.

If you do not have any symptoms but have tested positive, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day after you took the test.

Stop self-isolating after 10 days if you feel well

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days even if you still have a cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. These can last for a couple of weeks.

Keep self-isolating if you feel unwell

You must keep self-isolating if you have a high temperature, and you should seek medical advice.

If you have tested negative

If you have symptoms and tested negative you can stop self-isolating straight away.

If you are a contact of somebody who has coronavirus, then develop symptoms yourself, you must still self-isolate for the full time period even if your test is negative.

If you live with someone or someone from your extended household (or support bubble) has developed symptoms

Self-isolate at home for at least 10 days

Self-isolate for 10 days if someone you live with or someone in your extended household (or support bubble) has:

  • COVID-19 symptoms and is waiting for a test result
  • COVID-19 symptoms and tested positive
  • tested positive but does not have symptoms

The person with symptoms must self-isolate straight away and get a test.

All other household and extended household (or support bubble) members must self-isolate at the same time, until the individual’s test result is known. If the test is negative everyone can stop self-isolating. If the test is positive everyone needs to continue to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

If you’ve been contacted by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect (TTP)

You must self-isolate for 10 days if you’ve been told to self-isolate by the TTP service. This is either because you have coronavirus or have been identified as being in contact with someone who has coronavirus and you might have caught it.

If you have been identified as a contact and live with others, only you will need to self-isolate. If you then start to show symptoms, you must start a new self-isolation period immediately and you will need to get a test. Everyone in your household or extended household (or support bubble) must also start to self-isolate and follow the guidance.

If you are a contact of somebody who has coronavirus, then develop symptoms yourself, you must still self-isolate for the full time period even if your test is negative.

Stop self-isolating after 10 days if you feel well

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days even if you still have a cough or loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. These can last for a couple of weeks.

Keep self-isolating if you feel unwell

If the household member with COVID-19 continues to be unwell with a temperature after completing 10 days self-isolation they should continue self-isolating but get medical help. If you, or other household members develop COVID-19 symptoms during the 10 day isolation period you must start a new 10 day period of self-isolation and get a test.

If you live with someone or someone from your extended household has been told to get tested but does not have symptoms

If a person is told to take a test for some other reason, as part of an outbreak investigation, then they and their household may be asked to self-isolate, based on the individual circumstances, and they will be advised on what they need to do.

People who take routine tests

Some people who work with vulnerable people, such as health or social care workers are tested regularly or as one-offs, even if they do not have symptoms. If you live with someone or someone from your extended household is being routinely tested, the household does not have to self-isolate unless the person tests positive.

If the person tests positive, they must self-isolate from the day they were tested and 10 days after. Their household and extended household (or support bubble), must self-isolate at home at the same time for 10 days.

Children (under 18 years) who need to self-isolate

A child must self-isolate for 10 days if they:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus
  • have tested positive
  • they live with someone in the same household that has symptoms or tested positive

All other household and extended household members (or support bubble) will also need to self-isolate in the above 3 situations.

Children must also self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive outside their household (for example, their childcare setting, school or further education). In this instance people within the household or extended household, do not need to self-isolate.

Shared child responsibility during self-isolation

Child with symptoms or that has tested positive

Parents and guardians should avoid moving a child with symptoms or that has tested positive, between households. Moving a child increases the spread of the virus.

If parents and guardians share responsibility of the child, the child should stay with 1 family for the time they need to self-isolate. This is to reduce any possible spread of the virus.

If it is not possible to stay with 1 family, the child can move between both households. The child must however, continue to self-isolate for the full 10 day period. The house they leave must complete the 10 day self-isolation period, and the house they go to must start their 10 day self-isolation period when the child arrives.

Child who is a contact of a confirmed case

Parents and guardians should also avoid moving a child who has to isolate as a contact of a confirmed case who is outside of the household setting. It will not be known if that child will develop coronavirus, but moving that child would increase the risk of spreading the virus if they unfortunately did contract it.

If parents and guardians share responsibility of the child, the child should stay with 1 family for the time they need to self-isolate. This is to reduce any possible spread of the virus.

If it is not possible to stay with 1 family, the child can move between both households. The child must however, continue to self-isolate for the full 10 day period. Both households would not need to self-isolate in this instance.

If, however, the child starts to develop symptoms, the child will need to commence a new 10 day period of self-isolation and get tested, and both households would also need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Care homes

People who are admitted into care homes may need to follow different self-isolation periods to those covered in this guidance. You will therefore need to follow advice given to you by healthcare professionals on what is required. The Public Health Wales care home guidance gives further information.

During your self-isolation period

Stay at home

You and everyone else in your household 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

Exceptions

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

However, 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 are found to have left home for any other reason, or stayed away from home longer than strictly necessary to do one of these essential tasks, you will have committed a criminal offence. This is punishable by a penalty from the police or prosecution in a court, which can lead to an unlimited fine.

If you have to leave home and have no alternative, you must 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.

Medical appointments

All routine medical and dental appointments should be cancelled whilst you or your household are self-isolating. You should call your GP, local hospital or outpatient service if you've 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 coronavirus service. If you have no internet access, you should call 111.

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.

Ways to avoid spreading coronavirus 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 extremely vulnerable (those 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 must 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.

Face coverings

If you have any coronavirus symptoms or tested positive 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. 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.

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 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 and 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 coronavirus 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.

What to do if you get coronavirus symptoms again

If you get symptoms again at any point after ending self-isolation, you will need to follow the guidance on self-isolation again. The same rules apply for anyone in your household or extended household.

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. Please 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 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 your household will need to follow this guidance on self-isolation from the start again and complete a full 10 day period of self-isolation.

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.

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 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 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 need to 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 10 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.