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COVID-19 - self isolation guidance

From 16 August 2021, the rules on self-isolating when individuals are identified by NHS Test and Trace as being a close contact of a positive case have changed.  

The following individuals will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case: 

  • Those aged 18 or under 
  • Those who have had both of their COVID-19 vaccinations. The second dose must have been given at least two weeks prior to coming into close contact with the positive case.

Anyone who meets this criteria and has been identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case is strongly advised to take a PCR test to detect the virus and identify any variants of concern.  If they test positive for COVID-19 they will then be legally required to self-isolate.  

Those who are over 18 and not fully vaccinated will still need to isolate if they are identified as close contacts. This is to protect themselves and others and stop the virus from spreading.  

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms will still be required to self-isolate and book a PCR test and remain at home until they receive their results.  


What is 'fully vaccinated'?

Full vaccination is 14 days after the second dose for two-dose COVID-19 vaccines. 

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have COVID-19. It is very important that anyone who has the virus, or might have been exposed to it, restricts the number of people they come into contact with for 10 days. This is the most effective way of preventing the coronavirus from spreading. 

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result must stay at home for the full isolation period. This is because they could pass it on to others, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

Please read the government guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infection. This also includes information for households with grandparents, parents and children living together where someone is at increased risk.  

Easy read and translated versions of this guidance are also available.  

How do I know if I have to self-isolate?

You will be required to self-isolate if you are identified by NHS Test and Trace as being a close contact of a positive case and if you are aged over 18 and have not had both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. Your second dose must be at least two weeks before you are notified to self-isolate.  Self-isolation is important to protect yourselves and others and stop the virus from spreading.  

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms is also required to self-isolate and book a PCR test and remain at home until they receive their results.  

A range of scenarios for self-isolation have been developed that may help you determine if you need to self-isolate. 

Read the government announcement: Self-isolation to be eased for fully vaccinated adults in step 4 

I have symptoms of COVID-19, what should I do?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you must stay at home and arrange to have a PCR test to see if you have COVID-19. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. 

The main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are: 

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature) 
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual) 
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal 

Get a PCR test to see if you have COVID-19  

How do I get an isolation note for my employer?

If someone needs time off work they can get an isolation note to give to their employer. You do not need to visit your GP to get an isolation note. You can apply online through the NHS for yourself or someone else.  

Am I eligible for a self-isolation grant payment?

A government-funded Test and Trace Support Payment scheme is available for people on low incomes who are unable to work while they are self-isolating because they cannot work from home.  

Find out more on how to apply for a Test and Trace support payment on the COVID-19 help for residents page of our website.

Do I need to self-isolate if I am arriving in England from another country?

You may have to self-isolate when you arrive in England if you are travelling from a country that is not on the travel corridor exempt list. Please check the government website for further details, including how to self-isolate when you travel to the UK.