COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
Self-isolation if you or someone you live with has coronavirus symptoms
To protect others, you must stay at home if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19).
This is called self-isolation.
If you think you might have coronavirus, check if you need to self-isolate using the 111 online coronavirus service.
Can I leave my home if I’m self-isolating?
If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus:
- do not leave your home for any reason – if you need food or medicine, order it online or by phone, or ask someone to deliver it to your home
- do not have visitors in your home – including friends and family
- do any exercise at home – you can use your garden, if you have one
How long to self-isolate
If you have symptoms
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, self-isolate for 7 days.
After 7 days:
- you can stop self-isolating if your symptoms have gone, or if you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection has gone
- keep self-isolating if you have any other symptoms (such as a high temperature, runny nose, feeling sick or diarrhoea) – you can stop self-isolating when your symptoms have gone
If you live with someone who has symptoms
If you live with someone who has symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started.
This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.
If more than 1 person at home has symptoms, self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person started having symptoms.
- If you get symptoms while self-isolating – you should self-isolate for 7 days from when your symptoms started, even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days.
- If you do not get symptoms while self-isolating – you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.
When you stop self-isolating, it’s important to follow the advice on social distancing.
This means you should stay at home as much as possible. But you can go out to work (if you cannot work from home) and for things like getting food or exercising.
If you’re a health or care worker, check with your employer before going back to work.
If you have symptoms and live with someone at higher risk from coronavirus
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 with friends or family for 14 days.
If you have to stay at home together, try to keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from each other. If possible, try not to share a bed.
How to reduce the spread of infection in your home
- wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
- use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
- clean objects and surfaces you touch often (such as door handles, kettles and phones) using your regular cleaning products
- clean a shared bathroom each time you use it, for example, by wiping the surfaces you have touched
- do not share towels, including hand towels and tea towels
How to look after your symptoms at home
If your symptoms are mild, you can usually look after yourself at home.
For advice about easing your symptoms and what to do if they get worse, see how to treat coronavirus symptoms at home.
Ask for a test to check if you have coronavirus
If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus, you may be able to get a test to check if you have the virus.
People in hospital and essential workers, including NHS and social care staff, are getting priority.
You can ask for a test if you’re not an essential worker, but you might not be able to get one. It depends on whether there are enough tests available.
Find out more about asking for a test to check if you have coronavirus.
Get an isolation note to give to your employer
If you live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus, you can get an isolation note to send to your employer as proof you need to be off work.
You do not need to get a note from a GP.
If you have symptoms of coronavirus, use the 111 online coronavirus service to get an isolation note.
Get text messages from the NHS about coronavirus
If you have coronavirus symptoms, you can sign up for text messages from the NHS about coronavirus.
You’ll get advice and links to trusted sources of information and support.
Help the NHS respond to coronavirus
Use the quick NHS coronavirus status checker to tell us about your current experience of the virus.
This will help the NHS plan its response to coronavirus by showing where the virus is spreading and how it affects people.
More information about self-isolation
Page last reviewed: 18 May 2020
Next review due: 25 May 2020