Covid-19 and self-isolation: Your questions answered

The Government has announced a shake-up of self-isolation rules for England, reducing the time a fully vaccinated person needs to spend at home.

It means those who tested positive for coronavirus or who had symptoms will no longer be required to self-isolate for seven days. Instead, if you return two negative test results using a lateral flow device on day five and day six, you can exit your stay at home period.

The rules, though, for unvaccinated individuals remain the same, meaning they must stay in self-isolation for 10 days.

Because of the changes to the rules, you may have some questions surrounding coronavirus and the self-isolation period. So, here’s some of the common ones and an answer to them.

Read more: Covid self isolation period cut as new rules announced in full

Covid-19 and self-isolation: Your questions answered

With the self-isolation period being cut for those who test negative and are double jabbed, that has caused a flurry of questions surrounding Covid-19. Here are some of them and an answer to each.

What are the new coronavirus self-isolating rules for England?

The Government has announced it is cutting the self-isolation period for fully vaccinated people who test negative using a lateral flow device on day five and six of their isolation.

It means if you test negative on both of those days, you will be able to leave self-isolation for the start of the sixth day.

If your lateral flow device result comes back positive, you will have to self-isolate for the full seven days and continue self-isolating if you still return a positive result on day six and day seven.

If it gets to the day after the final day and you are still testing positive, you can leave self-isolation so long as you don’t have any symptoms of the virus.

The Government guidance says: “Your self-isolation period starts immediately from when your symptoms started, or, if you do not have any symptoms, from when your positive lateral flow device (LFD) or PCR test was taken, whichever test was taken first. Your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started (or the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms), and the next 10 full days. It may be possible to end your self-isolation earlier.”

How long do I have to self-isolate if I have symptoms of coronavirus?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus and the ones outlined by the NHS include a new, continuous cough, a high temperature and a change or loss to your sense of smell and/or taste, you should begin self-isolating immediately.

You will have to self-isolate for 10 days if you are not vaccinated against the virus. If you are double jabbed, that period is cut to 7 days.

However, if you’re vaccinated and return a negative test result on a lateral flow device on day five and six, you can leave at the start of day six of your self-isolation period, provided your only symptoms are a cough and change or loss to your sense of taste or smell.

The Government guidance says: “You can return to your normal routine and stop self-isolating after 10 full days if your symptoms have gone, or if the only symptoms you have are a cough or anosmia, which can last for several weeks. If you still have a high temperature after 10 days or are otherwise unwell, stay at home and seek medical advice.”

How long do I have to self-isolate if I have no symptoms of coronavirus but have returned a positive test?

If you have tested positive on a lateral flow device but have no symptoms you have to self-isolate for 7 days if you are vaccinated and 10 days if you are unvaccinated.

You can, however, take further lateral flow device tests on days five and six and if they both return negative results and you have no symptoms, you may exit your self-isolation period.

If you are unvaccinated, you must self-isolate for the full 10 day period.

What happens if I have no symptoms during self-isolation but then develop symptoms?

If you have no symptoms but have returned a positive test result and then go on to develop coronavirus symptoms while you’re in self-isolation, you do not need to start a new period of self-isolation. You must continue self-isolating.

When can I leave self-isolation if I had symptoms of coronavirus but have returned two negative test results?

You can only leave self-isolation if you no longer have symptoms and are fully vaccinated on day six. You must take two lateral flow device tests: one on day five and another on day six. If they both come back negative, you can exit your self-isolation period.

Do I need to take a PCR test if I have tested positive on a lateral flow test and have begun self-isolating?

You only need to take a PCR test if you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you’ve taken a test on a lateral flow device and it has come back positive and you have symptoms, you should order a PCR test. You do not need a confirmatory PCR test if you don’t have symptoms.

You should only follow a lateral flow device test with a PCR test if any of the following apply to you:

  • You want to apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment

  • You have a medical or health condition meaning you may be suitable for new coronavirus treatments

  • You are taking lateral flow device tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks them to do so

  • You have a positive day two lateral flow device result after arriving in England

Do I need to self-isolate if a close contact or household member has symptoms of coronavirus?

If someone in your household or a close contact tests positive for coronavirus and you do not have any symptoms of the illness, you do not need to self-isolate if you meet any of the following:

  • You have had a full course of vaccinations – fully vaccinated means you have had 2 doses of an approved vaccine such as Pfizer BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Spikevax (formerly Moderna); you are also fully vaccinated if you have had one dose of the single-dose Janssen vaccine

  • you are aged 18 or below

  • you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial

  • you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

Government guidance advises people who are in the same household as someone with the illness or who are a close contact of someone with the illness to take a lateral flow device test. If they test positive on the result, they should begin self-isolating.