Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating
If you have symptoms of or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 you must follow the self-isolation guidance below. You should also self-isolate if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 if you’re not fully vaccinated.
Who should self-isolate and for how long
If you have COVID-19 symptoms
If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, you should begin self-isolating and book a PCR test. These are widely available and are free.
You should continue to isolate until the result of the test is available. If the result is positive you should continue to self-isolate for 10 full days after the symptoms started.
You can end self-isolation 10 days after your symptoms started, as long as you do not still have a high temperature. If you still have a high temperature, you need to continue to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours.
You do not need to continue self-isolating for more than 10 days if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell/ taste, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone.
More information is available at:
Close contacts of COVID-19
If you’re a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolation and testing requirements will depend on whether you’re fully vaccinated, your age and where you work.
A close contact can be:
- anyone who lives in the same household as someone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19
- anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 with a PCR test:
- face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
- skin-to-skin physical contact for any length of time
- been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
- sexual contacts
- been within two metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)
- travelled in the same vehicle or a plane
Aged 18 and over and not fully vaccinated
If you are aged 18 and over, but not fully vaccinated, you should self-isolate for 10 days following last contact with the positive person.
You will be asked to take a PCR but, even if this is negative, you still need to complete the isolation period.
If you are not able to be vaccinated for a clinical reason, you should complete a period of self-isolation for the full 10 days, even if you receive a negative PCR test result.
Fully vaccinated close contacts
Since 16 August, if you are fully vaccinated (more than 14 days since you received the second dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine), you do not need to self-isolate for 10 days if someone you have been in close contact with tests positive for COVID-19.
You should get a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10-day period following last contact with the positive person.
If the PCR test is positive, whether or not you have symptoms, you should complete a period of 10 days self-isolation from the day you first had symptoms, or the day the test was taken if there were no symptoms.
Even if you’re fully vaccinated, if you have been identified as a close contact, you are advised not to visit hospitals or care homes for 10 days and to minimise contact with those known to be at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, such as the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Group (CEV) for 10 days.
Young people (aged five to 17)
Young people (aged five to 17) who are not fully vaccinated and are identified as a close contacts should self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as possible.
If the PCR test is negative, they can end their self-isolation and should arrange to take another PCR test eight days after the last known contact.
If the young person who is a close contact develops symptoms at any time they should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test, even if the earlier PCR tests were negative.
If any of the PCR tests are positive, this means they have the infection and they should self-isolate for 10 days, in line with advice for confirmed cases.
Children under the age of five
Children under the age of five will be encouraged, but not required, to take a PCR test. They do not need to isolate unless they develop symptoms or have a positive PCR result.
Close contacts with positive PCR test in the past 90 days
If you're a close contact who is fully vaccinated, or under the age of 18, and have had a positive PCR test within 90 days of the date of contact, you do not need to isolate and do not need to book tests at day two and day eight.
However, if you develop symptoms, you should isolate and book a PCR.
Advice for contacts who started self-isolation before 16 August
If you were identified as a close contact and asked to isolate for 10 days before 16 August you can stop self-isolating if you are fully vaccinated.
You should have a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10 day self-isolation period.
If you are aged between five and 17 and have had a negative PCR test you can stop isolating on 16 August.
Children aged four and under can also stop isolating. They should preferably have a negative PCR.
Health and Social Care workers
If you're a fully vaccinated, health and social care worker and identified as a close contact, you may not be able to attend the workplace during the 10 day period following last contact.
You should refer to the separate guidance for health and social care workers and discuss with your manager if you can attend the workplace.
Ways to make staying at home more manageable
While staying at home it can be helpful to:
- use delivery services, if possible, to deliver things like food shopping and medicines
- order repeat prescriptions by phone or online and ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered
- think of other ways to keep in contact with people
- develop a daily routine -get up at the same time as normal and plan how you will spend your day – cooking, reading, tidying, watching TV
- listen to the radio or an audio book if your home feels too quiet
- get as much fresh air as possible
If possible try and build some physical activity into your daily routine such as cleaning or just getting up and walking about the house.
Financial support and self-isolating
Financial support may be available if you are in a financial crisis or need short term support whilst self-isolating.
Looking after your mental wellbeing
You may find that social distancing and staying at home can be boring, frustrating or lonely and that your mood and feelings are affected.
You may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being with other people.
There is advice and guidance if about how to look after your mental wellbeing:
NHS 111 service
You can ring NHS 111 for information or advice and they will help you decide if you need to contact your GP. Calling your GP may be necessary if you:
- have an existing health condition
- have problems with your immune system
- feel you're not coping with your symptoms
A remote interpreting service for British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL) users in Northern Ireland has been introduced to provide access to NHS 111 and Health and Social Care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information is available at:
Advice for blind and partially sighted people
RNIB NI and Guide Dogs have put together advice for blind and partially sighted people during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes contact information and advice on how to get support in your local community.