When does Covid isolation period start? Rules explained and how long to self isolate after positive test in UK

Covid self isolation rules vary slightly between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

With rising Covid cases brought on by the spread of the Omicron variant, testing has become part of many people’s daily routine.

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Here’s all you need to know about when the self isolation period starts if you receive an NHS notification, test positive for Covid or someone you live with has tested positive.

When do I have to self isolate?

The Omicron variant and the speed it is spreading through society has led to a change in the self isolation rules.

Government has announced the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who have coronavirus has been cut to a week, which will give more people the chance to spend time with loved ones over Christmas.

From Wednesday 22 December, those in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period, and are vaccinated, will no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

When does the self isolation period start?

Double vaccinated people who come into contact with someone who has Covid need to take lateral flow tests for seven days.

Testing should begin on the day of NHS Test and Trace notification and results should be reported online or by calling 119.

If one of the lateral flow tests returns a positive result then you must take a PCR test to verify, while self isolating to limit the spread.

The day self isolation period starts from the date you had a positive lateral flow test, if the PCR test result also comes back positive.

When can I stop self isolating?

If you’ve tested positive you can stop self isolating after 7 days if you don’t have any symptoms and return a negative Covid lateral flow test on days six and seven.

If you still have a high temperature then it is advised that you continue to self isolate and seek medical advice.

When someone you live with has Covid and you need to self isolate then the isolation period ends after 10 days if you have no symptoms.

If the NHS contacts you, either through the Test and Trace team or the Covid app, telling you to self isolate then you must oblige. The self isolation period includes the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for Covid and the following 10 days.

What does self isolation mean?

Self isolation means limiting your contact with the outside world and was brought in as a measure to help limit the spread of Covid.

The advice is to stay at home and not go out for any reason, meaning you shouldn’t go to work or to school, and order food and drink online to be delivered.

Unless it’s for essential care, no one from outside the household bubble should come inside.

If you test positive or have symptoms of Covid then you should keep your distance from others in your household and leave windows open for ventilation wherever possible.

What are the self isolation rules in Scotland?

In Scotland, the rules around self isolation change a little.

The 10 day self isolation period applies if someone in your household tests positive for Covid, even if you have a negative PCR test, don’t have symptoms and are fully vaccinated.

You must also self isolate and take a PCR test if you have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for Covid who is not in your household. If the test is positive and you are double jabbed and over 18 years old then you can leave isolation.

What are the self isolation rules in Wales?

Wales also has its own rules on self isolation, which means tighter rules if you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant.

Contact tracers will inform you if this is the case and you’ll be asked to take a PCR test on days two and eight of the 10 day isolation period.

If someone from your household tests positive or shows Covid symptoms then you’ll be asked to self isolate and get a PCR test. If it’s not an Omicron case and the test is negative then you can end self isolation.

What are the self isolation rules in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland also has stricter measures in place for Omicron cases of Covid.

If you’ve been in close contact with a suspected Omicron case then you will be asked to self isolate for 10 days and take a PCR test on days two and eight. This applies no matter what your vaccination status is or age.

If a close contact has tested positive for Covid, which is not suspected to be the Omicron strain, then you must take a PCR test on days two and eight from your last contact with the person who has test positive, as well as take daily lateral flow tests, if you have been double jabbed.

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