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.

Rules from Monday 16 August

  • People fully vaccinated or under 18 will not need to self-isolate after close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
  • You will still need to take a PCR test and self-isolate if it’s positive, or if you have symptoms. It is a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive.

When to self-isolate

Self-isolate immediately if:

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. If you have been fully vaccinated or are under 18, then you do not need to self-isolate, unless you develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for it.

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. Depending on their vaccination status, these 20 people may all need to 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. Children do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

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 and you have not had both vaccinations  Isolate for 10 days from the last contact with the positive case.
If you have been contacted by the Test and Trace service, and you have not had both vaccinations 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. and you have not had both vaqccinations 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, and you have not had both vaccinations. 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 to find out the support they are able to offer.

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 criteria. Find out more on the government website GOV UK.

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

Other support you can access

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

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

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: