Do I need to isolate while waiting for PCR test results? Covid self isolation rules explained - who is exempt

Covid-19 infections are expected to rise this winter, alongside seasonal flu which will be circulating at the same time

As the winter weather sets in, Covid-19 cases are gradually starting to increase across the UK.

More than 70% of local areas around the country have seen a week-on-week rise in rates, based on the latest figures up to 8 October, with Trafford in Greater Manchester currently recording the highest rate.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

The figures come amid warnings the NHS is not fully prepared for the challenges of winter, which will see both Covid-19 and seasonal flu circulating at the same time.

A report in the summer from the Academy of Medical Sciences found that hospital admissions and deaths from flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could be more than double those seen in a normal year, leading to as many as 60,000 flu deaths.

The government has now launched its biggest flu vaccination programme in the NHS’s history in a bid to reduce infections, with more than 40 million people eligible for a free jab this year.

Covid-19 booster jabs are also being rolled out, with around 28 million people in England eligible for a third dose.

With infections expected to be high over the coming months, it is important to isolate at home if you suspect you might have coronavirus.

If you are unsure about the rules around self-isolation, here’s everything you need to know about when to stay at home.

When do I need to self-isolate?

You should self-isolate at home straight away and order a PCR test via the government website as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms, even if they are mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Additionally, you should also self-isolate immediately if:

  • you have tested positive for Covid-19
  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19 - unless you meet the criteria to be exempt
  • you have been told to self-isolate following contact with someone who tested positive

Do I need to isolate while waiting for PCR test results?

You should isolate at home while waiting for a PCR test kit to arrive, or for a test site appointment, or for confirmation of your test result.

While waiting for your test and results, you should not leave home to go to work, school, or public areas, and must not use public transport or taxis.

Government guidance states that if you  need to leave your home to get to a test site, you should wear a face covering, stay at least two metres apart from other people who you do not live with, and return home immediately afterwards.

How long do I need to self-isolate?

If you test positive for Covid-19, your self-isolation period includes the day your symptoms started, or the day you took the test if you do not have symptoms, plus the next 10 full days.

If you get symptoms while you are self-isolating, you must restart the 10 day quarantine period from the day after your symptoms started.

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if you do not have any symptoms, or you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste. This is because these symptoms can last for weeks after the infection has gone.

However, if you have a high temperature after 10 days, or are feeling unwell, you should continue isolating and seek medical advice.

For those living with someone who tests positive for Covid-19, the self-isolation period includes the day their symptoms started, or the day they had the test if they do not have symptoms, plus the next 10 dull days.

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if you do not get any symptoms.

If you do get symptoms you should get a PCR test to check if you have Covid-19. If this is negative, continue to isolate for the rest of the 10 days. If the test is positive, the 10 days restarts from the day after your symptoms started.

When do I not need to self-isolate?

If you live with someone who has symptoms of Covid-19, or has tested positive, you do not need to self-isolate if you meet the following criteria:

  • you are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – this means 14 days have passed since your second vaccine dose given by the NHS
  • you are under 18 years, six months old
  • you are taking part or have taken part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial
  • you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons

Even if you do not have symptoms, you should still order a PCR test to check if you have Covid-19 and limit your contact with people who are at high risk from the virus.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.