Self-isolation rules for coronavirus (COVID-19)

Self-isolation if you have a positive coronavirus test

If you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms you should stay at home and self-isolate in line with government guidelines immediately. You should get a PCR coronavirus test on GOV.UK as soon as possible. If your PCR test result is positive, you must continue to self-isolate.

If you don't have COVID-19 symptoms but you have a positive coronavirus test result, you must also stay at home and self-isolate in line with government guidelines.

How long you need to self-isolate for

The self-isolation guidance for people with COVID-19 says that it's possible for anyone that's tested positive for COVID-19 to reduce their self-isolation period from 10 days to five full days following two negative lateral flow tests (LFTs) taken on day five and day six after symptoms start (or, if you don't have any symptoms, from the date of your positive test).

The day your symptoms start/you test positive is day zero. The next day is day one of your isolation period. You can take your first lateral flow test on day five. If it's negative, you can take another test 24 hours later on day six. If this is also negative and you don't have a high temperature, you can leave isolation.

If the LFT result is positive, you must keep self-isolating until you've had two negative LFT results 24 hours apart. Each time you should report your lateral flow test result on GOV.UK.

If you take a lateral flow test on day five and it's still positive

If you take a lateral flow test on day five and it's positive, you must continue to self-isolate but you can test again the following day (day six). You still need two negative lateral flow test results, 24 hours apart, before ending isolation early. Again, you must no longer have a high temperature.

For example, if you test negative on day six and day seven, you can leave self-isolation on day seven after the negative result.

You're still strongly advised to:

  • limit close contact with other people in crowded or indoor spaces
  • work from home where possible
  • wear a face covering unless exempt 
  • keep a safe distance from others and regularly wash or sanitise hands
  • minimise contact with anyone at higher risk of severe illness for the next few days to further reduce any remaining risk of spreading the virus

Self-isolation if you're a close contact of someone with a positive coronavirus test

If you're fully vaccinated or under 18

If you're told by NHS Test and Trace that you’re a close contact of someone that's tested positive for COVID-19 you're not required to self-isolate if you're fully vaccinated or under 18. You're classed as fully vaccinated 14 days after you've received two doses of an approved vaccine.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated or are under 18 should take a lateral flow test every day for seven days (children under five years old are not required to take lateral flow tests). You don't have to self-isolate during this time (unless you receive a positive lateral flow test result), but you're advised to take precautions to protect others.

Changes to testing from Tuesday 11 January 2022:

If you're 18 or over and not fully vaccinated

If you're told by NHS Test and Trace that you’re a close contact of someone that's tested positive for COVID-19, you aren’t fully vaccinated and you're over 18, you must self-isolate in line with government guidelines. You're classed as fully vaccinated 14 days after you've received two doses of an approved vaccine.

You're advised to take a PCR test during your self-isolation as you're someone that's at higher risk of being infected with COVID-19. PCR tests are available to be sent to your home or by appointment at a testing centre. Get a PCR coronavirus test on GOV.UK.

  • If your PCR test result during your isolation period is negative, you must continue to self-isolate as you could still become infectious and pass the infection on to others.

  • If your PCR test result is positive, you must start a further isolation period from the day you took the PCR test.

Further guidance

You can find the full guidance about when to self-isolate and for how long on GOV.UK:

Flow chart

Below is a diagram to help you understand self-isolation guidance and what you need to do if you’re identified you’re a close contact of a positive case.

Flow chart showing self isolation guidance if you're a contact of someone who has COVID-19

Support during isolation

There's a range of support services and financial aid available if you’re required to self-isolate. You can find more information about this on our how to get help during the coronavirus pandemic webpage.