What to do if you’ve been exposed to someone with coronavirus - and how long to self-isolate

If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace you must self-isolate (Photo: Shutterstock)If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace you must self-isolate (Photo: Shutterstock)
If you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace you must self-isolate (Photo: Shutterstock)

Self-isolating if you have coronavirus is hugely important for preventing further spread and keeping transmission rates as low as possible.

Those who test positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when symptoms started, while all other members of the same household also need to stay at home and should not leave the house for 14 days.

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This period of isolation starts from the day the first person in the household became ill or, if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

But what is the guidance for those who have been exposed to a contact with coronavirus who they do not live with? Here’s what the government advises.

What is a ‘contact’?

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been in close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus anytime from two days before this person experienced symptoms, up to 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive, you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone.

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Do I need to self-isolate?

If you have been notified you are a contact by the NHS Test and Trace service, you must self-isolate at home for a period of 14 days from the date of your last contact with the person with coronavirus.

This is because you may be at risk of developing symptoms yourself and could potentially spread the virus to others even before symptoms begin.

During the self-isolation period, you should not go to work, school or any public areas, and must not use public transport or taxis.

You should also not leave to buy food or other essentials, and any exercise must be taken within your home.

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Failing to stay at home and self-isolate could result in a fine of up to £10,000.

If you have not been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, this means you do not need to self-isolate and should continue to follow the general guidance on social distancing.

What about people I live with?

If you do not have symptoms of coronavirus, other people in your household do not need to self-isolate at home with you.

However, government guidance states that other household members should take extra care to follow the advice on social distancing, handwashing and respiratory hygiene, such as covering coughs and sneezes.

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Should I get a test?

You should not arrange for a test unless you develop one of the three main symptoms of coronavirus. These include:

  • A new continuous cough
  • A high temperature
  • A loss of, or change in, our normal sense of taste or smell

If you do not develop any of these symptoms, you should not arrange for testing.

Do I need to self-isolate if I’ve already had coronavirus?

If you have previously tested positive for coronavirus, it is likely that you will have developed a short-term immunity to the virus. However, it is still uncertain that this will be the case for everyone, nor is it known how long immunity may last.

As such, if you are notified that you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you must follow the self-isolation guidance, even if you have already had the virus yourself.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman