The rules for self-isolation have changed because of the Omicron Covid variant.
In some cases, there are different rules to follow depending on where you are in the UK.
When do I have to self isolate?
Across the UK you must self-isolate for 10 days if you:
- test positive for Covid or have Covid symptoms
- are waiting for the results of a PCR test after developing Covid symptoms
- are an adult who has not been double vaccinated, who lives with someone who tests positive (or who has Covid symptoms)
- are an adult who has not been double vaccinated, who has been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive
What are the rules for contacts?
If you’re a double-vaccinated contact of a positive case, the rules vary depending on where you live:
If you are double vaccinated and come into contact with a person with Covid (all variants), you should take daily lateral flow tests (LFTs) for seven days, whatever your age.
The tests should be taken from the day you’re notified by NHS Test and Trace, and the results should be reported online or by calling 119.
If one of the lateral flow tests is positive, you’ll need to self-isolate and take a PCR test to verify the result.
If the PCR is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day you took the positive LFT or developed symptoms.
Even if the lateral flow tests are negative, you are “strongly advised” to limit contact with others.
The government has temporarily suspended the ability to order LFTs online amid high demand.
You should isolate for 10 days if anyone in your household tests positive for Covid. This is regardless of your age or vaccination status, or if you test negative.
If you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid, but who is not in your household, you should isolate and take a PCR test.
If the test is negative – and you are double-vaccinated or aged under 18 years and four months – you can leave isolation.
You still have to self-isolate if you are identified as a close contact of a suspected Omicron case. Contact tracers will tell you if this is the case and you’ll be asked to take a PCR test on days two and eight of isolation.
You’ll also be asked to self-isolate and get PCR-tested if someone from your household shows Covid symptoms or tests positive.
If it’s not an Omicron case and you test negative, you can end self-isolation but are advised to avoid contact with vulnerable people in the short term.
Other contacts of non-Omicron cases are asked to take PCR tests on days two and eight.
If you’ve been in close contact with a suspected Omicron case, you will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days and take a PCR test on days two and eight, whatever your vaccination status or age.
For non-Omicron cases, if you’re fully vaccinated and have had close contact with a positive case, you are asked to book a PCR test on days two and eight following your last contact with the positive person, as well as taking daily LFTs.
Under-18s don’t have to self-isolate after contact with a positive case, even if they are not vaccinated, although they are advised to take a PCR test.
Self-isolating after travel to the UK
On arrival in the UK, all travellers aged 5 or older must take a pre-booked PCR test within 48 hours of arrival (over-11s in Scotland). During this time you must self-isolate.
If you are under 18 or are fully vaccinated, you can stop self-isolating as soon as you get a negative test result.
However, if you’re an unvaccinated adult, you must still self-isolate at home for 10 days after arrival.
What does self-isolation mean?
Self-isolation means staying at home and not going out for any reason. Self-isolating adults shouldn’t go into work and self-isolating children shouldn’t go to school.
You should order online groceries, or ask friends or family to deliver supplies.
No-one from outside your household should come inside, unless to deliver essential care.
If you test positive and feel fine, but subsequently develop symptoms, you must restart your 10-day isolation period.
If you have symptoms or test positive, you should:
- Keep your distance from other members of your household
- Leave windows open to improve ventilation
- If possible, sleep and eat in a different room, and use a separate bathroom
- If you share a bathroom, use it after everyone else and clean it thoroughly
If you do not follow the rules on self-isolation, you can be fined. In England, penalties start at £1,000 and rise to £10,000.
Will I be paid if I have to self-isolate?
A £500 grant is available in England to people on low incomes who have to self-isolate. This includes parents who can’t work because their child has to self-isolate. It is a single payment to cover 10 days’ isolation.
You may also be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, which is worth £96.35 a week. Employers with their own sick pay scheme will pay more.