Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Test and Protect

Published: 18 Feb 2021
Last updated: 18 Feb 2021 - see all updates

Information and support for people who are asked to self-isolate because of COVID-19, including the Self-Isolation Support Grant (£500).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Test and Protect
Who needs to self isolate?

Who needs to self isolate?

Everyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 – a new, continuous cough; fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste - should isolate straight away and arrange a test via or, if you can’t get online, by calling 0800 028 2816.

People who live in the same household as a person with symptoms should also isolate straight away.

If the test result for the symptomatic person is negative, and they are not already isolating as a ‘close contact’ of a confirmed case, they can end isolation and return to work or school when they are well enough and have not had a fever for 48 hours. The rest of their household can end isolation straight away.

If the test is positive, the symptomatic person should remain in isolation until 10 days from symptom onset, or longer if certain symptoms persist. The rest of the household should remain in isolation for 10 days from symptom onset in the symptomatic person, even if they don’t have symptoms themselves. 

Everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be put in touch with the local contact tracing team so that other close contacts can be identified. These close contacts will also be asked to self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset in the symptomatic person. 

It will be important that everyone, and especially the people identified as close contacts, remain in self-isolation for the full length of time they are asked to.

A ‘close contact’ is someone who has been physically close enough to the confirmed case for a long enough period of time, that they may have had the virus transmitted to them. The risk of the virus being transmitted is higher the closer the contact, the greater the exposure to respiratory droplets (for example from coughing), and the longer the duration of the contact.

If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, you will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days. This is because if you have the virus, it may take some time for it to develop into an illness (the “incubation period” of the virus). 

If you have been identified by NHS contact tracers as having been in close contact with a person with a confirmed case, you will not be told who it is you have been in contact with.

If you do not have symptoms yourself and are self-isolating as a close contact of person who is a confirmed case, other people in your own household will not be asked to self-isolate along with you – unless they have also been in close contact with a person who is a confirmed case, which case they will informed by the NHS.

Example A: Household self-isolation

NHS Inform has produced an infographic which sets out isolation requirements in the event of someone in a household testing positive. This can be found here: COVID-19 isolation advice for households ( 

Example B: Non-household close contact self-isolation

Person A lives with her family and was a close contact of another person who is a confirmed case while at work.

The partner and children of person A do not need to self-isolate along with her, as long as person A has no symptoms. 

They are able to leave the house in line with physical distancing guidance and regulations that apply to the whole population – they could go out for exercise, or to pick up food or medicine. 

Person A must stay at home and self-isolate for 10 days from her last contact with the confirmed case.

First published: 18 Feb 2021 Last updated: 18 Feb 2021 -