Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Test and Protect

Published: 18 Feb 2021
Last updated: 13 Oct 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

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 www.nhsinform.scot 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 self-isolate and book a PCR test. If they are a partially or non-vaccinated adult, they will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days, whether or not they have symptoms. If they are a fully-vaccinated adult, provided they return a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic, they may end self-isolation as a close contact. Fully vaccinated means having received both vaccine doses, with at least two weeks passing since the second dose. If they are younger than 18 years and 4 months or medically unable to get vaccinated, provided they return a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic, they may end self-isolation as a close contact. Guidance on how to self-isolate effectively should be followed.

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 given specific guidance depending on your vaccination status and age.

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 required to self-isolate as a close contact of person who is a confirmed case, other people in your own household will normally 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, in which case they will informed by the NHS on specific self-isolation advice. Contact tracers may sometimes ask contacts of close contacts to isolate and book a test. This helps to prevent further spread of the virus.

Example A: Household self-isolation

NHS Inform has produced a guide covering when and how long to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

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 and is required to self-isolate.

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.

Who does not need to self-isolate

If you are vaccinated

If you are a fully vaccinated adult, you should get a PCR test as soon as possible. Provided you return a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic, you may end self-isolation as a close contact.

If you are younger than 18 years and 4 months you should get a PCR test as soon as possible. Provided you return a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic, you may end self-isolation as a close contact. Though, Children under 5 years will be encouraged but not required to take a PCR test. 18 years and 4 months is the age specified to allow 4 months for individuals who turn 18 time to get fully vaccinated.

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you can still get coronavirus and pass it on to others.

If you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following our guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

As well as getting a PCR test, you may also consider:

If you are medically unable to be vaccinated, you should get a PCR test as soon as possible. Provided you return a negative PCR test result and remain asymptomatic, you may end self-isolation as a close contact.

If you return a positive test result, you will still need to isolate for 10 days.


First published: 18 Feb 2021 Last updated: 13 Oct 2021 -