Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for individuals with possible coronavirus infection

Self-isolating when you are asked to is the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). It’s very important that you stay at home (self-isolate) if:

  • you have symptoms of coronavirus
  • you've had a positive lateral flow device (LFD) or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result
  • you've been told to self-isolate because you're a close contact of a positive case

When and how long to self-isolate due to coronavirus

Use this guide to find out if you need to self-isolate and for how long.

Self-help guide

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Testing for coronavirus

Testing is available to people with and without symptoms. It can be carried out at home, or at one of the many coronavirus testing centres across Scotland.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms are new:

  • continuous cough
  • fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater)
  • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  • are coughing more than usual

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature). You may feel warm, cold or shivery.

Self-isolation if you have coronavirus

If you have symptoms, you should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test. If you test positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started.

If you've had a positive PCR or LFD test result but no symptoms, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your test. You may go on to develop symptoms over the next few days, but you don't need a confirmatory PCR test, unless advised by a clinician, and you don't need to re-start your isolation period. If you develop any of the main symptoms of coronavirus and you are concerned, or your symptoms are worsening, phone 111 or speak to your GP. In an emergency phone 999.

You may still have a cough or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste for several weeks. People with symptoms are very unlikely to infect others after the 10th day of illness. Once you have completed your 10 day self-isolation, you can return to work and your usual activities as long as you feel better and do not have a high temperature. You must continue to follow the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

Ending self-isolation early

You may be able to end self-isolation early if you have 2 negative LFD test results in a row from day 6 onwards, taken 24 hours apart. For example, a negative LFD test result on day 6 and 7, day 7 and 8, or day 8 and 9. You should report your LFD test result after taking each test, regardless of the result. To be able to end self-isolation, you should also make sure you:

  • do not have a high temperature
  • follow the guidance for staying safe when you've ended self-isolation

You should not take an LFD test before day 6 of your self-isolation period.

You should only end self-isolation after 2 negative LFD test results in a row. After you have 2 negative test results in a row, you should stop daily testing and restart testing twice a week, and testing before you socialise or travel in Scotland.

This guidance applies regardless of age, vaccination status or previous infection.

If you continue to test positive on LFD tests, or choose not to take LFD tests to end self-isolation early, you can return to work and your usual activities on the 11th day after your symptoms started, as long as you feel better and do not have a high temperature.

Support available

If you're told to self-isolate by Test and Protect you may be eligible for a £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant. If you have tested positive on a LFD test, you need a confirmatory positive PCR test result to apply for the grant.

Book a PCR test

National Assistance Helpline

If your friends or family are not able to help, phone the National Assistance Helpline (0800 111 4000).

This helpline is only for those who have to stay at home but can’t get the help they need through friends or family.

Self-isolation if you're a close contact

You may be a close contact if you:

  • live with someone who has tested positive – for example you sleep in the same home or live in shared accommodation like university halls
  • have spent 8 hours or more in the home of the person who has tested positive during their infectious period – for example a sleepover
  • are a cleaner (not using PPE) who cleans the home of the person who has tested positive, even if you did not spend time with them
  • have had face-to-face contact less than 1 metre apart from the person who has tested positive for any length of time
  • have had any contact less than 1 metre apart from the person who tested positive for 1 minute or longer
  • have been within 2 metres of the person who tested positive for more than 15 minutes
  • car-shared with the person who tested positive

If you live with someone who tests positive, you should follow the guidance for close contacts as soon as they test positive.

If you do not live with someone who tests positive, you should only follow guidance for close contacts if you're asked to by Test and Protect. If you're not sure if you're a close contact, or if you need advice about close contacts, you can call the National Contact Tracing Centre on 0800 030 8012.

The infectious period is any time from 2 days before any one of the three main symptoms starts and up to 10 days after. If the person who tested positive does not have symptoms, their close contacts are counted from 2 days before the date of their positive test and up to 10 days after.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated

If you're a close contact who is fully vaccinated, you can take daily LFD tests instead of self-isolating. Fully vaccinated means you've received 3 doses of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before you last saw the person who tested positive. If you live with the person who tested positive, the 14 days is counted from the day their symptoms started, or 14 days before they tested positive if they don't have symptoms. The daily LFD tests should be taken for 7 days in a row or until the end of your 10 day self-isolation period, whichever is soonest.

As a close contact, if you develop the main symptoms of coronavirus you should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test. If this is negative continue to take daily LFD tests for 7 days or the duration of your self-isolation period which ever is soonest. If this is positive then you need to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. You may be able to end self-isolation early.

If any of your LFD tests are positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your positive test result. You do not need to book a follow-up PCR test to confirm your positive LFD result.

Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated

If you're a close contact who is not fully vaccinated, you should self-isolate for 10 days and book a PCR test. Even if your test result is negative, you should complete the 10 day self-isolation.

If you've had a positive PCR test result in the last 90 days, you do not need to book another PCR test unless you develop new symptoms.

If you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you should follow the guidance for close contacts who are fully vaccinated. 

If you're taking part in a registered clinical vaccine trial which means you cannot be fully vaccinated, you can follow the guidance for fully vaccinated close contacts. 

Close contacts aged under 18 years and 4 months

Close contacts aged under 18 years and 4 months can take daily LFD tests instead of self-isolating. The daily LFD tests should be taken for 7 days in a row or until the end of your 10 day self-isolation period, whichever is soonest.

As a close contact, if you develop the main symptoms of coronavirus you should immediately self-isolate and book a PCR test. If this is negative continue to take daily LFD tests for 7 days or the duration of your self-isolation period which ever is soonest. If this is positive then you need to self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started. You may be able to end self-isolation early.

If any of your LFD tests are positive, you should self-isolate for 10 days from the date of your positive test result. You do not need to book a follow-up PCR test to confirm your positive LFD result.

‘Low risk’ contacts aged under 18 years and 4 months

You may receive a notification to tell you that you or your child is a ‘low risk’ contact. Notifications are usually sent by schools or nurseries to children who have shared a classroom with someone who has tested positive.

Low risk contacts do not need to self-isolate, book a PCR test or take daily LFD tests. They should follow the advice in the notification to take extra precautions, including regular LFD testing.

Children under 5

Children under 5 who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate or take daily LFD tests, but are recommended to take a test.

If the child under 5 has symptoms or develops symptoms then they should take a PCR test

If you're unable to take LFD tests for a medical reason

If you or someone you care for is identified as a contact but have been advised by a medical professional that you or they are unable to do take LFD tests for a medical reason, this should be discussed with Test and Protect when they contact you.

Staying safe if you’ve ended self-isolation

If you’re someone who can end self-isolation, you should:

  • limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in enclosed spaces, for 10 days
  • wear a face covering in enclosed spaces and where you cannot maintain physical distancing
  • limit contact with anyone who is at highest risk for 10 days 
  • not visit people in care homes, hospitals, prisons or other detention centres for 10 days, unless essential and agreed with staff in advance
  • continue to take part in twice weekly lateral flow device (LFD) testing after the 10 days

If you've tested positive, count the 10 days from the date your symptoms started, or the date of your test if you do not have symptoms. If you're a close contact, count the 10 days from the date of your last contact with the positive case.

How to self-isolate

Do

  • ask others for help to make sure you can stay at home
  • ask your employer, friends or family to help you get the things you need
  • stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from other people in your home whenever possible
  • sleep alone if possible
  • wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds regularly
  • stay away from the elderly and those with underlying health conditions as much as possible
  • consider whether older people and those with underlying health conditions can stay in another house while you need to stay at home
  • contact carers to tell them you're self-isolating so they can follow the correct procedures to prevent spread of the infection
  • keep in touch with friends and family by phone or through social media
  • postpone any non-essential healthcare appointments – for example medical, dental or optician appointments

Self-isolation means you should stay at home. You shouldn’t go to work, school, public areas or use public transport. You shouldn’t go out to buy food or other essentials.

Avoid close contact with others by:

  • not having visitors
  • not using taxis or public transport
  • asking a friend or neighbour to get your shopping or arranging for a delivery to be left at your door
  • not sharing towels, clothes, toothbrushes or razors

What you can do to help yourself get better

Read our advice on treating coronavirus symptoms at home

Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds regularly. This will help protect you and others around you from passing on any infection. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands aren’t visibly dirty.

Dry your hands using a separate towel from other people.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Cover your coughs and sneezes

Cover your nose and mouth with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough into the crook of your elbow and not in your hand.

Dispose of your tissues in a disposable rubbish bag and wash your hands immediately with soap and water or use a hand sanitiser.

Stay away from others

Separate yourself from other people in your home and keep the door closed. If you can’t stay in a separate room, try to stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from the other people.

Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened. Try to keep the window open as much as possible to help with ventilation and air flow. This will help to keep clean air moving through your room.

Each person should:

  • sleep in a different bed where possible
  • use their own toothbrushes, towels, linen, cups, plates, bowls and cutlery
  • take meals to their own room to eat

Shared living spaces

Spend as little time as possible in your kitchen, bathrooms and sitting areas and keep these areas well ventilated. This is especially important if you, or your family members, are at higher risk.

If you can, use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household. If you share a kitchen, avoid using it while others are present.

If you share a toilet and bathroom wipe any surfaces you come in contact with and clean it after every use.

Use a dishwasher if you have one. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash your plates and cutlery using washing up liquid and warm water. Then dry them thoroughly with a separate tea towel.

Collecting shopping and prescriptions

If possible, ask a friend or family member to run errands on your behalf. For example buying groceries, picking up prescriptions or walking your dog.

You can also order your shopping online, but ask them to leave items outside or by your front door. The delivery driver should not come into your home.

Pharmacies can often arrange to deliver repeat prescriptions if you run out while you remain at home. Other people can collect a prescription on your behalf.

Cleaning products

Clean all surfaces every day with a household cleaner that’s active against viruses and bacteria. Pay special attention to frequently touched areas. Usual household products like detergents and bleach are effective.

Wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning surfaces and handling clothing and bedding.

Waste disposal

You can put personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths in disposable rubbish bags. These should be:

  • placed into another bag
  • tied securely
  • kept separate from other waste in your room
  • put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin

Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.

Laundry

Don’t shake dirty laundry as this can spread the virus through the air.

Wash laundry using the highest temperature setting on the label. Where possible, wash laundry separately from other people living in your household.

If you don’t have a washing machine, wait a further 3 days after your self-isolation period has ended to take your laundry to a launderette.

If you live with someone at higher risk

Family members at higher risk should spend as little time as possible in shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms and sitting areas. You should keep these spaces well ventilated.

The person at higher risk should, where possible:

  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from you and others in your household
  • sleep in a different bed
  • use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household
  • use separate towels from the other people in your house
  • take their meals back to their room to eat

The rest of the household should:

  • clean any shared toilets and bathrooms every time you use them, for example wiping surfaces you have come into contact with
  • consider drawing up a rota for bathing, with the higher risk person using the facilities first
  • avoid using the kitchen while they are present.
  • use a dishwasher to clean and dry the family’s used crockery and cutlery
  • wash them using your usual washing up liquid and warm water if you don’t have a dishwasher
  • dry all crockery and cutlery thoroughly, and use a separate tea towel if the higher risk person is using their own utensils

If you live with a higher risk person and it’s not possible to physically distance from them, phone the National Assistance Helpline (0800 111 4000) to discuss your needs.

Late stages of pregnancy

If you think you’re in labour, phone your maternity unit and tell them you think you’re in labour but have been self-isolating. They’ll be able to advise you what to do next.

We have more detailed coronavirus guidance for people who are pregnant

Breastfeeding

Read our advice on breastfeeding if you have coronavirus

Face masks

If you have a carer who visits your home, they need to wear protective equipment to reduce the risk of infection. It's recommended you wear a face mask too.

If necessary, your local carer's centre can provide protective equipment to your carer.

Find a carer centre in your area