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Health news, tips and expert guidance

Your Guide to Self-isolation

Updated: Feb 14, 2021

Self-isolation is an important way to protect yourself and others, and slow down the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Self-isolation means staying at home and applies to those who have symptoms, or those who live in the same household as someone with symptoms. It is different from social distancing, which refers to the steps you can take to reduce social interaction.

How long do you need to self-isolate for?

If you have been advised to self-isolate and you live alone, you need to stay at home for 7 days and avoid contact with other people.

It is important to remember that you can still pass on coronavirus even if you do not have symptoms – so you must complete the full 7 day self-isolation period. If you still have a fever beyond the 7th day, you must continue to self-isolate until your fever has gone. If you continue to have a cough beyond the 7th day, you do not need to self-isolate for longer as the cough can persist once the infection is over and it doesn’t mean you are still infectious.

Household isolation

If you live with others, you need to stay home for 7 days and everyone else in your household needs to stay home for 14 days. This is because it is likely those in your household will already be infected or may become infected in the following days. If others in your household develop symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days from the day they first get symptoms. Those in your household that don’t get any symptoms during those 14 days can stop self-isolating at the end of that 14 day period.

How to self-isolate

  • Stay at home and keep it well ventilated

  • Do not leave the house to go to work, school or public places

  • You can go outside once per day for the purpose of exercise but you must keep 2 metres away from other people

  • Do not invite visitors into your home

  • Get shopping and medicine delivered to your house by friends, family or delivery services

  • Ask for deliveries to be left outside your house for you to collect, unless delivered by a household member

If you live with other people:

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to arrange for them to stay elsewhere with friends or family for 14 days. If this is not possible:

  • Avoid shared spaces for example by using separate bedrooms and bathrooms, and the vulnerable person should eat in their room

  • If you can’t avoid shared spaces, try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other and keep windows open in any shared spaces

  • Keep toiletries, laundry, cutlery and kitchen utensils separate - for example toothbrushes, sheets, towels, crockery and cups

  • Wash bedding at 60-90°C, and wash cutlery and kitchen utensils thoroughly with soap and warm water or in a dishwasher

  • Disinfect toilets and bathroom surfaces after use and disinfect bedroom surfaces at least once a day

  • Wash your hands before and after using the bathroom and kitchen, and before contact with the vulnerable person


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