Coronavirus (COVID-19): self-isolating and close contacts
If you have symptoms of or have been diagnosed with COVID-19 you should self-isolate. If you are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, follow the guidance on self-isolation.
You should self-isolate immediately if:
- you have symptoms of Coronavirus
- you have tested positive for Coronavirus
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, you should begin self-isolating and take a free lateral flow test. Find out how to get lateral flow tests at:
If your lateral flow test is negative, you can end isolation.
How long to self-isolate if you have COVID-19
If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate for 10 days from the date you took the test or the date your symptoms started, whichever is sooner. That date is day zero.
You may be able to end your self-isolation period from day six if:
- you have two consecutive negative lateral flow test results taken 24 hours apart, with the first of these taken no earlier than day five
- you do not have a high temperature
If either your day five or six tests are positive, you should not leave isolation.
You should continue to test daily and only leave isolation early (before you have completed 10 full days) after you have had two consecutive negative Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
You should stop testing after you have had two consecutive negative test results.
You should report all test results.
If you still have a high temperature, you should continue to self-isolate until your temperature has returned to normal for 48 hours.
If you leave self-isolation on or after day six following two negative lateral flow results, you are strongly advised to:
- limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces
- minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19
- not visit a hospital and other health and care setting
If your lateral flow tests continue to be positive and you have completed 10 full days of isolation:
- you do not need to take any more LFD tests after the 10th day
- you may leave isolation the following day
This is because you are unlikely to be infectious after the 10th day of your self-isolation period.
If you are concerned, you may choose to limit close contact with other people, especially those who are at higher risk of severe illness until 14 days after the start of your self-isolation period.
Separate guidance applies to health and social care.
If you’re a close contact of someone with COVID-19
Anyone who lives in the same household as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is at greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.
If you have reported your positive lateral flow test result, the Public Health Agency’s contact tracing service will contact you to give public health advice for you and your household to help protect those most at risk and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This may include identifying those who may be eligible for COVID treatment should they develop symptoms and test positive.
Routine contact tracing of close contacts outside your household has stopped and the StopCOVID NI app has been suspended.
If you're a household contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you do not have to take a lateral flow test unless you develop symptoms.
You are advised to:
- be alert for any symptoms of COVID-19
- avoid close contact with individuals known to you to be at higher risk of severe disease should they contract COVID-19 despite vaccination
- take a lateral flow test if you develop any COVID-19 symptoms and isolate if you return a positive result
- not visit a hospital and other health and care setting
- follow the guidance on staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19
If you are identified as a household close contact, the advice is the same whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.
If you know that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you should be alert for symptoms and follow the general guidance to test if you develop symptoms of COVID-19.
This guidance applies to the whole population including children and young people.
Children under the age of five
Parents of children under five are encouraged to follow the guidance above.
If the child develops symptoms and it is not possible to carry out a lateral flow test because the child will not tolerate the swab, parents and carers should take a cautious approach and avoid contact with vulnerable and older adults.
They should also stay at home until they do not have a temperature and are well enough to return to school or childcare.
Health and Social Care workers
There is separate guidance for health and social care workers.
Ways to make self-isolating more manageable
While staying at home it can be helpful to:
- ask for support – let friends and family know you might need help walking the dog, taking the children to school or looking after relatives
- talk to your boss if you can’t go to work to see what arrangements can be put in place
- 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.
Reducing the spread of COVID-19 within your household
If you have COVID-19, there are practical steps that you can take to protect the members of your household.
If possible, you should try and arrange for one room in your home to be just for you. Try to spend the majority of your time in this room. This could include eating or sleeping.
Ask the people you live with to help by bringing your meals to your door if possible.
If possible, use a separate bathroom too.
Spend as little time as possible in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas. Avoid using shared spaces such as kitchens and other living areas while others are present.
You should try to limit how long you are in a room with others and keep your distance. The more distance you can keep between you, the less chance there is of spreading the virus.
Wear a face covering when spending time in shared areas inside your home to minimise the risk of spread to others.
Keep your house well-ventilated by opening a window to stop the virus collecting in the air. If it's cold outside, it still helps if you can open the window even slightly to allow the air to circulate. Then open windows wider for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day where it is possible to do so.
Frequently clean surfaces in your home and wash your hands regularly.
Pay particular attention to shared areas of the home, such as kitchens, bathrooms and surfaces that are frequently touched, such as taps, toilet, fridge, door handles, tables and kettles.
Try to avoid sharing or touching things that other people have used, unless you know that they have been cleaned recently with disinfectant. This includes towels, taps and toothbrushes.
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 about how to look after your mental wellbeing: