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Self-isolate and protect others

Learn when you must self-isolate and how to protect others from infection inside and outside of your home.

What's on this page:

    When to self-isolate

    Self-isolation guidance changes from Monday, 16 August 2021.

    From 16 August, in England, you will not be required to self-isolate if you are notified you have had close contact with, or live in the same household as, someone with COVID-19 and any of the following apply:

    • you are fully vaccinated*
    • you are below the age of 18 years 6 months
    • you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
    • you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

    *Fully vaccinated means that you have been vaccinated with an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, and at least 14 days have passed since you received the recommended doses of that vaccine.

    NHS Test and Trace will contact you to let you know that you have been identified as a contact and check whether you are legally required to self-isolate.

    If you are not legally required to self-isolate you will be provided with advice on testing and given guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19. Even if you do not have symptoms, you will be advised to have a PCR test as soon as possible. Children aged 4 and under will not be advised to take a test unless the positive case was someone in their own household.

    You should not arrange to have a PCR test if you have previously received a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days, unless you develop any new symptoms of COVID-19, as it is possible for PCR tests to remain positive for some time after COVID-19 infection.

    Remember, even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still get COVID-19 and pass it on to others. If you are identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19 but you are not required to self-isolate, you can help still help to protect your friends, family and colleagues:

    As well as getting a PCR test, government guidance advises you to:

    • limit close contact with people outside your household, especially in busy or enclosed spaces
    • wear a face covering in busy or enclosed spaces and where you are unable to maintain social distancing
    • limit contact with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
    • keep doing regular LFT tests.

    You should follow this advice until 10 full days after your most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

    If you are a health or social care worker who has been identified as a close contact and are exempt from self-isolation, there is additional government guidance available that you should follow to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

    If you develop symptoms at any time, or feel unwell, self-isolate immediately, book a PCR test and follow the current guidance.

    How to self-isolate


    • Stay in your home or accommodation


    1. Go out to work, school or other public areas. You should work from home if you can.
    2. Have visitors in your home or accommodation, except for people providing essential care.
    3. Go out to exercise. You should exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one.

    How long to self-isolate

    How long you need to self-isolate for depends on your circumstances.

    Find out how long to self-isolate for on the NHS website.

    Household isolation

    If you have symptoms or have tested positive, all members of your household must self-isolate.

    Find out how to avoid spreading coronavirus to people you live with on the NHS website.

    If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 your household does not need to self-isolate with you. However, they must take extra care to:

    • Wash hands

      Keep washing your hands regularly.

    • Cover face

      Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces.

    • Make space

      stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face cover or other precautions.

    School isolation

    Your child may be told by their school or college to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

    View our easy read guide for schoolchildren to find out how protect others from infection.

    • No symptoms in household?
      No symptoms in household?

      Only schoolchild must isolate.

    • Symptoms in household?
      Symptoms in household?

      Everyone must isolate.

    When to get a test

    Get a test if you have:

    • COVID-19 symptoms
    • been asked to get a test
    • High temperature
    • New persistent cough
    • Loss of smell
    • Loss of taste

    Get an isolation note to give to your employer

    If you have to stay at home but feel well enough to work, ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note.

    If you cannot work, find out how to get an isolation note on the NHS website.

    Financial help

    If you need to self-isolate and you’re on a low income, are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result, you may be able to claim a payment of £500.

    Find out if you’re eligible for a Test and Trace support payment.