When should I self-isolate and how long for? Rules explained – The Sun

SELF-ISOLATION rules vary from person-to-person and it's important you know them to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

With a new Covid variant (Omicron) raising the risk of infection and severe disease, even in the vaccinated, quarantine measures have been tightened.

Failing to self-isolate properly could mean you give the virus to others, potentially vulnerable people.

Self-isolation is still a legal requirement in many instances.

It can be difficult for some who cannot afford to be off work for several days, so there is a one-off payment available to those who do not qualify for sick pay.

What does self-isolation mean?

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have the coronavirus.

Essentially self-isolation means cutting yourself off from the outside world  — and no visitors!

It means staying at home from work, school or other public places or public transport or any place where you may spread the virus to others.

Also, make sure you have a well-ventilated room with a window which can be opened.

And while there should be no visitors, it is fine to have friends, family or delivery drivers drop off essentials during this period.

Self-isolation is different to social distancing and shielding.


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When should I self-isolate?

You need to self-isolate if the following applies to you:

  • you have any of the following symptoms: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
  • you have tested positive for the virus, even if you have no symptoms, with a lateral flow test. Get a PCR test as soon as possible
  • you have tested positive for the virus, even if you have no symptoms, with a PCR test
  • someone you live with has symptoms (unless you are not required to self-isolate, check below)
  • you've been told by the NHS to self-isolate

When do I not need to self-isolate?

There is now some flexibility in self-isolation rules thanks the the millions of people who have taken their Covid vaccine.

If someone you live with has symptoms of Covid, or has tested positive for it, you do not always need to self-isolate.

You can avoid self-isolation if any of the following apply:

  • you're fully vaccinated – this means 14 days have passed since your final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine given by the NHS. However, if you live with, or have been in contact with someone with the Omicron variant, you need to do daily lateral flow testing for seven days from December 14.
  • you're taking part or have taken part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial
  • you're not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
  • you're under 18 years, 6 months old – unless you are a contact of someone who has Omicron Covid

The NHS says even if you do not have to self-isolate and don't think you have symptoms of the virus, you should still get a PCR test to check if you are carrying Covid.

You may want to limit contact with vulnerable people just in case you are infected with Covid.

What are the self-isolation rules for Omicron?

If you are told you have the Omicron variant, self-isolation rules are the same.

If you are fully vaccinated and live in the same household as someone that has been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of Omicron, you do not need to self-isolate but must do daily lateral flow testing for seven days.

These rules also apply to those who are aged five to 18 years and 6 months old, regardless of their vaccine status, people who can prove they are unable to be vaccinated for clinical reasons and people taking part, or have taken part, in an approved clinical trial for a Covid vaccine.

If you are unvaccinated and live in the same household as someone with Covid – Omicron or otherwise – you must self-isolate.

How long should I self-isolate for?

Usually self-isolation is ten days.

If you test positive, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started and the next 10 full days.

But if you do not have symptoms, but have a positive test result, your 10 days starts the day you had the test.

If you get symptoms after your test, you have to self-isolate for a further 10 days from when your symptoms start.

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if either:

  • you do not have any symptoms
  • you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone

Continue to keep self-isolating if:

  • you feel unwell
  • you have any of these symptoms after 10 days: a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery, a runny nose or sneezing, feeling or being sick, diarrhoea. Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone.

What if someone else is self-isolating in your home? 

The Government suggests you do the following to reduce Covid spreading in your home:

  • Limit contact with the person with Covid and preferably make sure they stay in one room 
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water regularly
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough (or the crook of your elbow). Immediately throw the rubbish away and wash your hands
  • Regularly clean surfaces, especially shared areas like bathrooms
  • Rubbish from the infected person should be double-bagged and left aside for at least 72 hours before put in usual external household waste bins
  • Wash the person's dirty laundry separately
  • Ventilate shared living spaces
  • Keep contact with pets restricted, and wash hands thoroughly before and after contact

GermDefence is a website that can help you identify ways to protect yourself and others in your household from COVID-19.

When do I need to self-isolate after holiday?

For a long time, there were self-isolation rules around travel abroad.

But a set of rules have now come into force following the emergence of Omicron.

If you are fully vaccinated and arrive in England from a country that is NOT on the red list, you:

  • must quarantine at home or in the place you’re staying
  • take a PCR test before the end of day two after you arrive (lateral flow tests will not be accepted)
  • can end quarantine if your PCR test result is negative or 14 days have passed, whichever is first

If you are not fully vaccinated you must quarantine for 10 full days from the day after you arrive in England.

If you arrive in England from a red-list country, you must quarantine in a Government approved hotel and take two Covid tests. This applies to people who are fully vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Read more about the travel rules on the Government website.

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