If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, you should begin self-isolating and book a test. If your test result is positive you should not not leave your home for 10 days from when your symptoms started.
This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious. If your test result is negative you are no longer required to self-isolate.
If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all other household members must stay at home and the symptomatic member should be tested.
If the test result is positive then all household members should continue to self-isolate for 10 days. The 10-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. If the test result is negative for the symptomatic household member then the household can stop self-isolating.
Testing for coronavirus
People who have symptoms of COVID-19 are now eligible to be tested for it. You can book a test via the GOV.UK website.
Testing is also available for the following groups:
- Health and Social Care (HSC) staff members
- care home residents and staff
- primary care workers
- essential workers
Defining a close contact
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
Who should self-isolate and for how long
Self-isolating if you get a positive test result
While waiting for your test or if you receive a positive diagnosis for COVID-19:
- stay at home for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started
- after 10 days from when your symptoms started:
- if you have not had a high temperature for 48 hours, you no longer need to self-isolate
- if you still have a high temperature, you need to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours
- you do not need to continue self-isolating if you only have a cough or loss of sense of smell/taste after 10 days, as these symptoms can last for several weeks after the infection has gone
Self-isolating if you get a negative test result
If you receive a negative diagnosis for COVID-19 you can stop self-isolating as long as:
- everyone you live with who has symptoms of COVID-19 has tested negative – you need to keep self-isolating if someone in your household tests positive, or develops symptoms of COVID-19 and has not been tested
- you feel well enough
- you are not a close contact of a confirmed case
If you develop new or worsening symptoms, you should self-isolate and can arrange to be re-tested.
Self-isolating if you are identified as a close contact
If you are identified as a close contact you will be asked to self-isolate for up to 10 days, depending on when you last came into contact with the person. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell.
You will also be asked to continue to self-isolate if you have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case even if you have received a negative test result, because it can take up to 10 days for the symptoms of infection to develop.
If you are a close contact and have no symptoms, your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
Self-isolating if a member of your household has COVID-19
If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to stay at home and self-isolate.
If the person with symptoms tests positive for COVID-19, everyone in the household without symptoms will need to self-isolate for 10 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms.
If you develop symptoms during this 10 day period, you’ll need to stay at home for at least 10 days from the day your symptoms started (regardless of what day you are on in the original 10 day period)
You will also be asked to continue to self-isolate if a member of your household has COVID-19 even if you have received a negative test result, because it can take up to 10 days for the symptoms of infection to develop.
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.
COVID-19 Community Helpline
The COVID -19 Community helpline has advisers who will be able to talk through your circumstances and offer you advice as well as matching you to a wide range of support services including help with accessing food and putting you in touch with volunteer led prescription delivery services in your area.
If you need further help, information or advice you can contact the freephone COVID-19 Community Helpline:
- freephone: 0808 802 0020
- text: ACTION to 81025
- email: email@example.com
You can also complete an enquiry form and find out what other help, support and advice is available on the AdviceNI website
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 do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 10 days, contact NHS 111 online.
If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
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 on the Health Services page.
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.