Self-isolation support pack

Where and how to get support if you are isolating to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

What self-isolation is

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have COVID-19. This helps stop the virus from spreading to other people.

If you have been asked to self-isolate

  • If you’ve been asked to self-isolate it is because you could be at risk of spreading the virus to others.
  • If you are feeling well, it’s still important to self-isolate as you can still pass on the virus before you have symptoms.
  • It is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive or are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. You could be fined if you do not self-isolate.

We know self-isolating can be difficult - this page contains information about how and where to get help in Oxfordshire. Download the self-isolation pack here (pdf format, 1.2Mb).

When to self-isolate

Self-isolate immediately if:

  • you have any symptoms of COVID-19 
  • you've tested positive for COVID-19
  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms and you’ve been in close contact with them since their symptoms started or during the 48 hours before they started
  • someone in your support bubble tested positive and you’ve been in close contact with them since they had the test or in the 48 hours before their test
  • you've been told you've been in contact with someone who tested positive by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • you arrive in the UK from a country with a high COVID-19 risk

If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, book a test immediately.

Symptoms include:

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

What self-isolation involves

You must not leave your home if you're self-isolating

  • Do not go to work, school or public places – work from home if you can.
  • Do not use public transport or taxis.
  • Do not go out to get food and medicine – order it online, by phone or ask someone to drop it to your home.
  • Do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for those providing essential care.
  • Do not go out to exercise – exercise at home or in your garden, if you have one.

How long you need to self-isolate for

It can take up to 10 days to develop symptoms after exposure – this is known as the incubation period – and this is the period of time you need to self-isolate unless you develop symptoms at some point during the 10 days.

Example: Tom's story
Day 0 Tom was exposed to COVID-19
Day 5 Tom got tested and was negative.
Day 7 Thinking he didn't have COVID-19, Tom went to work and was in close contact with 20 people.
Day 9 Tom developed symptoms and tested positive. He was contagious for three days before his symptoms started and exposed 20 people to COVID-19. These 20 people must all now self-isolate for ten days.

This is why it is so important to self-isolate for the allocated time and to book a test only if you develop symptoms.

A handy summary of how long you should isolate for
If you develop symptoms Isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms.
If you test positive Isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms or test day if none.
If you are told you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive Isolate for 10 days from the last contact with the positive case.
If you have been contacted by the Test and Trace service Isolate for 10 days from the last contact with the positive case.
If you live in a household where others (including children) develop symptoms, or they have tested positive. Isolate for 10 days from when they developed symptoms or test day if none.
If you are told you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. Isolate for 10 days from the last contact with the positive case.

Keep self-isolating if you have any of these symptoms after 10 days:

  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • a runny nose or sneezing
  • feeling or being sick
  • diarrhoea.

Only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone. If you have diarrhoea or you’re being sick, stay at home until 48 hours after they've stopped.

You can stop self-isolating after 10 days if either:

  • you do not have any symptoms
  • you just have a cough or changes to your sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone.

If you develop COVID-19 symptoms while isolating

There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19, but you can often ease the symptoms at home until you recover:

  • get lots of rest
  • drink plenty of fluids (water is best) to avoid dehydration
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you feel uncomfortable.
  • avoid lying on your back if you have a cough.

If you're feeling breathless, it can help to keep your room cool. Try turning the heating down or opening a window. Do not use a fan as it may spread the virus.

You could also try:

  • breathing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, with your lips together like you're gently blowing out a candle
  • sitting upright in a chair
  • relaxing your shoulders, so you're not hunched
  • leaning forward slightly – support yourself by putting your hands on your knees or something stable like a chair.

If you are concerned about your symptoms or feel breathless and it's getting worse, get medical advice from the NHS 111 online COVID-19 service.

Help and support to help you self-isolate

You may need help to self-isolate, from simple things like getting groceries to financial help if you cannot work from home. Contact your local council if you need help.

If you need immediate financial support

You could be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace support payment if you live in England and meet all the following criteria:

  • You’ve been told to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app.
  • You’ve responded to messages received from NHS Test and Trace and have provided any legally required information. You will have been given contact tracing and advice service reference number by NHS Test and Trace, or by the app (it ill be an eight-digit code such as A1H4CHY5).
  • You’re employed or self-employed (those not working when told to self-isolate do not qualify for a payment).
  • You’re unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating (your local council will set a maximum weekly income that qualifies).
  • You’re currently receiving or are the partner of someone in the same household who is receiving, at least one of the following benefits:
    • universal credit
    • working tax credit
    • income-based employment and support allowance
    • income-based Jobseeker’s allowance
    • income support
    • housing benefit
    • pension credit.

If you’re not on one of these benefits, you could be eligible for a £500 discretionary payment if all the following apply:

  • you meet all the other criteria listed above
  • you’re on a low income
  • you will face financial hardship as a result of self-isolating.

Find out more about claiming financial support under the Test and Trace support payment scheme on government’s website.

The payments are administered by district councils. To apply, visit your local council website:

Other financial support you can access

Winter Support Grant

You can get help with food, electricity and heating bills and other essential items by applying for a Winter Support Grant (this must be claimed by 31 March 2021).

Oxfordshire councils and Citizens Advice services are working together to provide this support. Households with children can claim up to £350, while those without children can receive up to £175. The funding can be used to provide supermarket vouchers, cover costs for pre-payment meters or make sure that a heating or water bill is paid. If you have received a food voucher from a previous scheme, you may also be eligible to have one from the Winter Support Grant.

You need to apply based on where you live. 

Local hardship grants may also be available in specific local areas and towns/parishes.

Community food providers and free school meals

There are also a number of community food providers on hand (such as food banks, community larders etc), including those supported by food and other essential supplies grants, to support those struggling. You can ask your local council about community food support in your area or visit the Good Food Oxford website.

Other groups and businesses providing food services near you.

If your child has a benefits related entitlement to free school meals and is required to stay at home to self-isolate, you are entitled to a food parcel, shopping vouchers or alternative provision. Contact your child’s school or college for further information.

Council tax and benefits

Councils also have the discretionary power to reduce council tax bills in light of COVID-19 hardship. Details can be found on your local council website:

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published information for those who need to claim benefits during the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found on the DWP website.

Other practical support

Help with essentials

NHS volunteer responders can help with things such as:

  • collecting shopping
  • collecting medicines and prescriptions
  • phone calls if you want to chat with someone.

More information can be found on the NHS volunteer responders website.

These groups and services can help you with shopping, dog walking, prescription collections and much more:

Schools and colleges

Schools and colleges have plans in place to continue the education of children and young people required to self-isolate. There are additional resources and information for parents and carers on schools and education during the pandemic that you can read.

Help with mental health

If you feel anxious about your finances, worried about your friends and family or angry and are struggling with day-to-day living you can contact your GP or find out what services are available to you.

Oxfordshire’s city and district councils also provide resources for those locally who may need mental health support:

Other help and support can be accessed online: