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Self-Isolation and Return to Work

Main points

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and take a PCR test as soon as possible. If you have tested positive for COVID-19 you must self-isolate and follow the guidance below.

You can leave self-isolation after 7 full days (on day 8 of your self-isolation period).

You should take a lateral flow test (LFT) on day 6 of your self-isolation period and another lateral flow test 24 hours later. This is to check if you remain infectious and could pass COVID-19 on to others.

You should not take a LFT before the sixth day of your self-isolation period because the risks of remaining infectious and the chances of passing it on to others before this period is significantly higher.

If you are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should follow this guidance. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are legally required to self-isolate as a close contact for 10 days.

If you are a close contact, self-isolation and what tests you should take will depend on

  • your vaccination status
  • your age
  • your occupation

Self-isolation

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation means not leaving your home because you have or might have COVID-19.

You are legally required to self-isolate on notification of a positive test result. If you do not, you are committing an offence and could get a fixed penalty notice of up to £1,920 or be prosecuted in court, which can lead to an unlimited fine.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19

If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as possible. This applies even if you have mild symptoms or if you have tested positive before.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a high temperature
  • a continuous cough
  • loss or change of taste or smell

If you have had a positive lateral flow test, you should report the result, self-isolate and follow self-isolation guidance. You no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test (unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment, or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme). 

Information about test results can be found here.

Close contacts

A close contact is anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:

  • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a conversation within 1 metre
  • skin-to-skin physical contact for any length of time
  • contact within 1 metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • contact within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (as a one-off contact, or added up together over 1 day)
  • travelled in the same vehicle or a plane

Contact tracers gather information on a particular situation when identifying close contacts. They will consider any mitigating measures that have been put in place. These may include protective screens for example. Not all contacts, activities, or environments have an equal risk of transmission. Contacts who work in health and social care who have correctly worn specific medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will not be considered as a contact. There are also a small number of other professional roles, including first responders, front-line emergency workers and immigration enforcement officers, who operate with specific medical PPE.

Face coverings (including disposable masks) or visors are not classed as PPE. They are not considered to be a mitigating factor in determining a contact. The decision on whether you will be determined to be a contact and asked to self-isolate will be assessed on a case by case basis. The contact tracer will advise them that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you are a close contact, self-isolation and testing requirements will depend on:

  • your vaccination status
  • your age
  • your occupation

Fully vaccinated in this context means:

You do not need to have received a booster vaccination to be considered fully vaccinated for the purpose of self-isolation rules.

Fully vaccinated adults and young people aged between 5 and 17

If you are a fully vaccinated adult or aged between 5 and 17 you do not need to self-isolate if identified as a close contact but you are strongly advised to:

  • take a LFT every day unless you cannot conduct an LFT for medical reasons) for 7 days or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier
  • take this daily test before you leave the house for the first time that day
  • upload all tests results on GOV.UK even if negative or void. This helps improve our understanding of infection rates across the UK and helps inform how we manage the pandemic to keep people safe whilst keeping life as normal as possible

The tests are free.

You can get LFTs by:

To further reduce the chance of passing COVID-19 on to others, you are advised to:

  • inform your employer that you are a contact of a case of COVID-19

You should follow this advice for 10 full days after your most recent contact with the person who has tested positive with COVID-19 or the end of a positive household member’s self-isolation period.

If any of these LFT tests are positive you should report the result and must self-isolate for at least 7 days starting from the date the LFT test was taken. You no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test (unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment, or have been advised to do so as part of a research or surveillance programme). 

Unvaccinated adults

If you are 18 and over, and not fully vaccinated, you must self-isolate from the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 and for the next 10 days.

You should also take a LFT test on day 2 and day 8. It is important that you take the tests even if you feel well as you may have COVID-19 even if you do not have symptoms.

Even if these tests are negative, you should complete the isolation period. This is because if you have been infected, it can take time for symptoms to develop or to become infectious to others.

If you are not able to be vaccinated for a clinical reason, you must self-isolate for 10 days, even if you get a negative lateral flow test result.

 

More information can be found here.

Employment and self-isolation

Business, employers and other organisations have a duty to protect their employees and customers. Employers by law have a duty to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19. Reasonable measures include enabling workers to self-isolate when required because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive and they are not fully vaccinated.

In no circumstances should you return to work during the self-isolation period or if the results of the tests you take on day 6 or 7 are positive.

If as a result of an employer’s action, a person fails to self-isolate when required to do so, the employer may be guilty of an offence and could face a fine up to £10,000.

With recording sickness, it is recommended that self-isolation should not be recorded against an employee’s sickness record.

There are a wide range of things that may need to be put in place to lower risks. These are set out in more detail in guidance for employers, businesses and organisations.

Help and financial advice whilst self-isolating

Employers should not require you to go back to work if you have been notified by NHS Wales TTP that you need to self-isolate. They should enable or allow you to stay at home. This includes if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

If you are unable to work due to COVID-19, you could get support for help.

Financial support if you cannot work

You should tell your employer if you cannot work whilst self-isolating. You may be covered by their sick leave or special leave policy.

If you cannot get sick pay from your employer, you may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay or another type of financial support.

Find out more about Statutory Sick Pay, including eligibility and how to claim on GOV.UK.

Self-isolation (support scheme) payment

If you are on low-income and cannot work from home whilst self-isolating, you could get a payment of £750 to help with loss of earnings. You can only apply for the payment, if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test, Trace Protect service.

Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for the Self-isolation payment.

Get a self-isolation note for your employer

If your employer has asked for a self-isolation note, use the COVID-19 symptom checker on NHS 111 Wales. The self-isolation notes are only available to patients who are advised to self-isolate by the online symptom checker. The self-isolation note generates a Unique Reference Number (URN) which an employer will be able to use to verify that your note is genuine.

Please do not call 111 as the call handlers will be unable to assist you.

If you still feel unwell after 7 days you should contact your GP. This may result in your GP issuing a fit note (amongst other investigative actions) which you will need to give to your employer.

If you have arranged to get a test for COVID-19 and the result is positive you will receive written notification of your positive status from TTP. This will also confirm your need to self-isolate for at least 7 days. This can be shared with your employer.

If TTP tells you to self-isolate as a close contact of someone who tested positive, you can be given written confirmation of this. You can share this with your employer.

 

Further information found here.