How to self-isolate
Changes from Monday 16 August
If you have received both doses of a vaccine in the UK vaccination programme at least 14 days before contact with a positive case, or are aged under 18, and have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, you should take a PCR test to check if you have the virus and for variants of concern.
You do not need to self-isolate while you wait for the test result, but it is recommended that you follow COVID precautions, such as wearing a face covering and regular hand washing.
If the test comes back negative, you do not need to self-isolate but you are encouraged to take a twice weekly lateral flow test.
Anyone who tests positive following the PCR test is still legally required to self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status or age. This is in order to break onwards chains of transmission.
Meanwhile anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and get a PCR test. They should remain in isolation until the result comes back.
If you have not received both doses of the vaccine you need to self-isolate for 10 days. You will be advised to get a PCR test and will need to self-isolate for 10 days whether the results are negative or positive.
We know that self-isolating is hard, but it is very important you comply with the rules to prevent others from getting ill, especially the ones you love. If you don’t self-isolate when you should, you will be breaking the law and could face a large fine.
When to self-isolate
You need to self-isolate immediately if:
- you have any symptoms of coronavirus
- you've tested positive for coronavirus
- someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated or aged under 18
- someone has symptoms or has tested positive and you’ve been in contact with them since their symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started and you are not fully vaccinated or aged under 18
- you've been told you've been in contact with someone who tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated or aged under 1 – find out what to do if you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
- you arrive in the UK from a country with a high coronavirus risk – see how to self-isolate when you travel to the UK on GOV.UK
If you are notified by your child’s school, college, university, or early years setting that they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, they need to follow the guidelines on self-isolation. However, other members of the household can continue as normal and only need to self-isolate if the child starts to show symptoms of COVID-19.
How to self-isolate
What you can and cannot do
- pop to the shops or pharmacy
- leave the house for exercise or to walk the dog
- go to a place of work
- catch a bus or train
- go out to pick up a takeaway
- go to school or drop your children off at school
- meet up with other people
- work from home
- exercise in your home or garden
- ask others to deliver food or medicine to your doorstep
- leave the house to get a coronavirus test if you have symptoms, but you must go straight there and back - it is best to walk or drive yourself there if you can
Be prepared in case you need to self-isolate
You might not get much notice that you need to self-isolate, especially if you’re contacted by NHS Test and Trace or the COVID-19 app.
As soon as you know you need to self-isolate you must stay at home. Don’t be tempted to pop out to the shops to stock up on food and essentials for the next 10 days.
It’s a good idea to plan ahead and make sure you already have essential items at home. It might be a few days before you can get supplies from friends, family, or local support services.
Most pharmacies can deliver medication, so don’t request more than you need.
Just make sure you have enough to get you through a few days of needing to stay home.
Who can help
This might be help with supplies or care of others while you’re self-isolating.
Check out what exercises can be done at home.
Stay connected, and understand what help is available for you.
This might include long-life food supplies, cleaning products and batteries.
Please don’t panic buy.
Know how to apply for help.
Plan for someone appropriate to take your child to school or college.
Arrange who will take your pet to the vets if they become unwell.
Check if you can work remotely.
For example, books, online activities, or art supplies.
How to keep others safe at home
If you’re self-isolating it’s important to do what you can to help protect others at home from coronavirus. Here are a few simple things you can do:
- keep shared spaces like the bathroom and kitchen clean using normal household products
- regularly clean things people touch the most such as taps, worktops, tables, door handles, light switches, and handrails
- wash your hands regularly with soap and water
- don’t share towels, including hand towels and tea towels
- cover coughs and sneezes and bin tissues quickly
- air the house and open windows when you can, coronavirus doesn’t spread as quickly in well-ventilated spaces
- limit close contact with others at home as much as possible
If you live in shared or overcrowded accommodation, there is guidance about how you can reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.
There is help at hand if you’re worried about self-isolating, if you need help getting essentials like food or medicine, or if self-isolating will cause financial difficulty.
If you do not have support available from friends or family, the Bracknell Forest Community Response is available 7 days a week to help with things like:
- food shopping
- collecting prescriptions
- dog walking
- information and advice
Contact the Bracknell Forest Community Response by:
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- phone: 01344 266911 between 8am and 8pm
Help with money and work
If you have to self-isolate and you’re worried about whether you will get paid while you’re away from work, you can:
- find out if you can apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment
- get an isolation note from the NHS website to send to your employer as proof you need to be off work
- see government advice on talking to your employer, statutory sick pay and other financial support available
- find out more about statutory sick pay and how to apply
Help with mental wellbeing
Self-isolating isn’t easy and can be lonely. If you’re struggling to cope, having difficulty sleeping, or managing stress, you’re not alone.
Our Public Health Portal has advice on how to protect your mental wellbeing as well as advice for parents and carers of young people.
Whatever you are going though, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Help if you’re unwell
If your symptoms worsen and you’re struggling to manage it’s important that you get medical help.
You can visit 111.nhs.uk online or call 111 for urgent medical advice. An advisor will direct you to the most appropriate service and can book you a slot at A&E if needed.
Help for families
If your child’s school tells you that your child should stay at home and self-isolate, they must follow the same rules on what you can and can’t do.
Your school will provide advice about how your child can access the school’s remote learning systems while they are at home.
If you are concerned for your child’s health and wellbeing, our Public Health Portal has lots of advice and resources that may help.
If you are advised to self-isolate please make sure you have made arrangements with friends and family who can support you in taking children to and from childcare, school or college, if they are not required to self-isolate with you.