Skip to main content

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.

Part of:
First published:
19 March 2020
Last updated:

Changes from 29 October 2021

Self-isolation has changed when somebody in your household has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus.

Fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17

If someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive and you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If your test is negative you can stop isolating.

Not fully vaccinated

If someone in your household has tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated you should self-isolate for 10 days. You should take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8. You should self-isolate for 10 days even if your tests are negative.

Children aged under 5

Children aged under 5 do not have to self-isolate or take a test if they have been a contact of a positive case in their household or otherwise.

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 should self-isolate at home and get a test. You should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Self-isolation applies to adults and children of all ages.

Self-isolation means that you do not leave the house. You should self-isolate straight away if you have symptoms and until you receive the results of a COVID-19 PCR test.

If you have 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.

The self-isolation period is 10 days from either:

  • the day immediately following the date of the start of your symptoms
  • the day immediately following the date of your positive test
  • the date confirmed to you by the TTP service if they identify you as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you live with someone who has developed symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus

Fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17

If someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus and you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If your test is negative you can stop isolating.

You should remain vigilant for new symptoms, and try to avoid contact with vulnerable family and friends in the short-term (e.g. elderly relatives or those who are higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection).

Children aged under 5

Children aged 0 to 4 years old no longer need to take a PCR test, even if they have COVID-19 symptoms. This is unless a doctor advises there is a need for it. Also they can get tested if parents feel that a PCR test is necessary and in the best interests of the child.

If a child has a PCR test is and the test result is positive then the child will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

For those children under 5 who have COVID-19 symptoms but are not tested for the virus they do not need to complete any formal period of self-isolation. However, we advise that those children should be kept home from school or childcare until they are well enough to return. A simple cough is not a reason to keep them home.

Many young children have cough and cold symptoms and evidence shows that most infections are caused by other viruses.

Evidence also shows that the small number of young children testing positive for COVID-19 are unlikely to pass it on to others.

Children aged under 5 do not have to self-isolate or take a test if they have been a contact of a positive case in their household or otherwise.

Not fully vaccinated

If someone in your household has tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated you should self-isolate for 10 days. You should take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8. You should self-isolate for 10 days even if your tests are negative.

If you have been in close contact with somebody who has coronavirus (non-household)

If you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17

If you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus you will not need to self-isolate if you do not have any symptoms. You should get a PCR test on day 2 from your last contact with the positive case (or as soon as possible) and day 8. It is important that you take these tests even if you feel well as you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.

Those who are no longer required to self-isolate will also receive advice and guidance from TTP contact tracers about how to protect themselves as follows:

  • Try to minimise contact with others and avoid crowded settings, particularly indoor settings
  • Consider using lateral flow tests on a daily/ more regular basis for the time you would otherwise have been self-isolating
  • do not visit vulnerable people such as those in care homes or hospitals.
  • work from home if you are not already doing so
  • inform your employer that you are a contact of a positive case of COVID-19.
  • pay extra attention to thorough and regular hand washing and wearing a face covering
  • if you work in the Health and Social Care sector your employer may ask you to take additional tests as a precaution or temporarily ask you to undertake an alternative role as outlined in the COVID-19 contacts: guidance for health and social care staff
  • If you work in special educational provision your employer may ask you to take additional tests as a precaution or be redeployed to a role where you are not facing individuals who have higher clinical risks or instructed not to attend work.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms at any point, no matter how mild, regardless of your vaccine status and you are over age 5, you should immediately self-isolate and arrange a COVID-19 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days if the test is positive.

Children under 18 will not be required to self-isolate if identified as a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, but contact tracers may still call to provide advice and information.

If you are over the age of 18 and not fully vaccinated

If you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, but do not have symptoms you will need to self-isolate for 10 days. You should also get a PCR test on day 2 from your last contact with the positive case (or as soon as possible) and on Day 8. If the tests are negative, you will still need to self-isolate for the full 10 day period. This is because if you’ve been infected, it can take time for symptoms to develop or to become infectious to others.

It is important that you take these tests even if you feel well, you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.

What does fully vaccinated mean

You are considered to be fully vaccinated if it is at least 14 full days since you had the full course of an approved vaccine, and it was administered in the UK.

If you have not completed your vaccination course (usually 2 separate vaccinations), at least 14 full days before the close contact, or if you received your vaccination outside of the UK, you will be required to self-isolate if contacted by TTP.

If you have participated in a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial, you do not need to self-isolate if contacted by TTP.

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.

If you test negative

If your test result is negative you can end your self-isolation period immediately.

If you test positive

If your test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate and complete the full self-isolation period of at least 10 days. Day 1 is the day immediately following the day you first had 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.

You may have to self-isolate for longer (up to 14 days), if you have certain variants of the virus. TTP will let you know if this is the case.

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 you still have a temperature after completing 10 days self-isolation you should get medical help. You should also continue to self-isolate.

If any other household members develop COVID-19 symptoms during the 10 day isolation period they should get a test and start a new 10 day period of self-isolation if positive. That new self-isolation period starts from the day after their COVID-19 symptoms commenced.

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 tested positive for COVID-19, or because you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, and you are not otherwise exempt.

If you have been identified as a close contact who is required to self-isolate and you live with others, only you will need to self-isolate unless they develop symptoms.

Anyone who is contacted by TTP as a close contact will be advised to book a PCR test onlineThey will be asked to take PCR tests on day 2 from their last contact with the person who tested positive (or as soon as possible once identified as a contact) and day 8. This is regardless of whether they are required to self-isolate.

Shared child responsibility during self-isolation

Child with symptoms or who has tested positive

Parents and guardians should avoid moving a child with COVID-19 symptoms or who 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 continue to self-isolate for the full 10 day period. Anyone in the household they leave must self-isolate for 10 days unless they are exempt (as defined earlier in this guidance). Anyone in the household they go to must start their 10 day self-isolation period when the child arrives, unless they are exempt.

Care homes

People who are admitted into care homes may need to follow different self-isolation periods to those covered in this guidance. You should follow advice provided 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 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

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
  • to access public services (including social services or victims’ services) where access to the service is critical to the person’s well-being, and the service cannot be provided if the person remains at the place where the person is living
  • to prevent illness, injury or other risk of harm to another person
  • to move to a different place to live to prevent illness to another person

However, although you are allowed to leave home for these 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

You should cancel all routine 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 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 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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

If you previously had a positive test and get symptoms again, you must self-isolate immediately from when your symptoms started and get a test. Tell the testing team that you have previously tested positive and on what date, as this might affect the interpretation of the new test result. All other household members, unless exempt, must stay at home and self-isolate 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 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 (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 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.