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

It’s very important that you stay at home (self-isolate) if:

  • you have symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you’ve had a positive test result
  • someone you live with has symptoms but has not yet been tested or received their test result

Household isolation will help to control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community and the most vulnerable.

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.

Passing on the infection

If you have symptoms, you must self-isolate immediately and book a test. If you test positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from when your symptoms started.

If you have had a positive test but have had no symptoms, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your test was taken. However, if you develop symptoms in the days after your positive test, you should re-start your self-isolation from the day your symptoms start.

Evidence suggests that people who develop symptoms are very unlikely to pose an infection risk to other people beyond the 10th day of illness. These people can return to normal activities at this point but must continue to follow the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

Close contacts

Close contacts should book a test as soon as possible, and self-isolate while waiting for the result.

If you’re identified as a close contact related to the omicron variant, Test and Protect will phone you to give you specific advice.

If you or someone you care for is identified as a contact and advised to take a PCR test, but have been told by a medical professional that you or they are unable to do so for a medical reason, discuss this with Test and Protect when they contact you.

If you're fully vaccinated

As a close contact, you can end self-isolation if all of the following apply:

  • you're fully vaccinated – this means you’ve received 2 doses of an approved vaccine and have had your second dose more than 14 days ago
  • you receive a negative PCR test result
  • you do not have, or develop, symptoms

If you’re a close contact and you’ve tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days, you do not have to self-isolate or book a test if you’re fully vaccinated unless you develop new symptoms.

Staying safe if you’ve ended self-isolation

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you can still get coronavirus and pass it on to others.

If you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following the Scottish Government’s guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

As well as getting a PCR test, you may also consider:

If you're not fully vaccinated

If you’re a close contact under 18 years and 4 months or you cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, you can only end self-isolation if you receive a negative PCR test result and you do not have, or develop, symptoms.

If you’re not fully vaccinated because you’re taking part in an official clinical trial, you’re exempt from self-isolation as a close contact if you receive a negative PCR test and do not have, or develop, symptoms.

If you are over 18 years and 4 months old and are not fully vaccinated, you must complete 10 days of self-isolation from your last date of contact with a positive case, even if you do not have symptoms and you receive a negative test result. The reason we say 18 years and 4 months is to allow time for individuals to become fully vaccinated.

Children under 5 years old who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate and are encouraged to book a test. If they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate and book a test.

If you’re a close contact and you’ve tested positive for coronavirus in the last 90 days but you’re not fully vaccinated and aged over 18 years and 4 months, you should self-isolate for 10 days. You do not have to book a test unless you develop new symptoms.

What to consider as a household

If you need to self-isolate:

  • plan ahead and ask others for help to make sure you can stay at home successfully
  • ask your employer, friends and family to help you get the things you need to stay at home
  • 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 essential carers to tell them someone in your household has symptoms, so that they can follow the correct procedures to prevent spread of the infection
  • make sure that you keep in touch with friends and family by phone or through social media

What we mean by household isolation

Household isolation means you and all household members or extended household members should remain at home and 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

If you are told to self-isolate by Test and Protect you may be eligible for a £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant.

What you can do to help yourself get better

Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. Drink enough during the day so your urine (pee) is a pale clear colour.

You can use over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol, to help with some of your symptoms. Use these according to the instructions on the packet or label and do not exceed the recommended dose.

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 and clean it after every use with a household detergent that’s active against viruses and bacteria.

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, and 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, including 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.

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.

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:

  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) away from you and others in your household
  • sleep in a different bed where possible
  • use a separate bathroom from the rest of the household
  • use separate towels from the other people in your house, both for drying themselves after bathing or showering and for hand-hygiene purposes
  • take their meals back to their room to eat if they can

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.

Breastfeeding

There’s currently no evidence the virus can be spread through breast milk. However, you can still spread the infection by close contact with your baby.

If you or a family member are feeding with formula or expressed milk, you should sterilise the equipment carefully before each use. You shouldn't share bottles or a breast pump with someone else.

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

Cleaning products

Clean all surfaces every day with a household cleaner that’s active against viruses and bacteria, this is important if you have an older or vulnerable person in your household. 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 securely store personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths within 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 indicated on the garment care 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.

Medical or dental treatment

Everyone following household isolation advice should postpone any non-essential healthcare appointments including medical, dental or optician appointments.

If you’re concerned or have been asked to attend an appointment while you’ve to stay at home, discuss this with your GP, local hospital or outpatient service using the number they’ve provided.

If you have to visit a care home, adult hospital, GP practice or pharmacy you must wear a face covering.

Travel

As you have to stay at home you can’t travel. You can re-arrange your travel for a date after you've self-isolated.

If you have travel insurance, contact your insurer and explain that you’ll not be able to travel for health reasons.

Face masks

If you have a carer who visits your home, they need to wear protective equipment to reduce the risk of catching the infection. You may be asked to wear a face mask too.

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

Find a carer centre in your area

Looking after your wellbeing

Staying at home for a prolonged period of time can be difficult. It can be frustrating and lonely for some people and you may feel low, particularly if you have limited room or access to outdoor space.

It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body and to get support if and when you need it. Stay in touch with family and friends over the phone or on social media.

Think about things you can do during your time at home, such as cooking, reading, online learning or watching films. If you feel well enough you can take part in light exercise within your home or garden.

When you are feeling better, remember that physical exercise can be good for your wellbeing. Look for online classes or courses that can help you take light exercise in your home.

Looking after your mental wellbeing during coronavirus

Keeping active during coronavirus

Eating well and staying healthy during coronavirus

Advice for supporting your child’s mental health during coronavirus

After staying at home (self-isolating and household isolation)

If you had symptoms and tested positive

If you stayed at home for 10 days because you had symptoms and tested positive, you can return to work and your usual activities 11 days from the date your symptoms started.

You may still have a cough or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste for several weeks. Evidence suggests that people who develop symptoms are very unlikely to pose an infection risk to other people beyond the 10th day of illness, even if you still have symptoms. You can return to work and your usual activities if you haven’t had a high temperature in 48 hours, without the need for medication to control fever. Your employer should support you to return to work in this case. You must continue to follow the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

If you tested positive but had no symptoms

If you stayed at home for 10 days because you tested positive but you had no symptoms, you can return to work and your usual activities 11 days from the date of your test. You must continue to follow the Scottish Government’s coronavirus advice.

If you or someone you live with develops symptoms while self-isolating

If you develop symptoms while self-isolating, you need to stay at home for 10 days from the day your symptoms started. You should do this even if it takes you over the original 10-day self-isolation period.

If someone you live with develops symptoms while self-isolating, they need to stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms started. They should do this even if it takes them over the original 10-day self-isolation period.

Phone 111 if anyone in your household has symptoms that can no longer be managed at home.

Repeating self-isolation or household isolation

If you or anyone in your household or extended household develops new coronavirus symptoms at any point after ending a period of self-isolation then the same guidance on self-isolation and testing should be followed again.

If you recover from a confirmed case of coronavirus and then go on later to develop new symptoms, follow our self-isolation and household isolation advice again. 

The test can stay positive for some time after you’ve had coronavirus. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re still infectious. If you have had a positive test result, you should only have another test if you develop new symptoms. So, if you are offered testing as part of an occupational testing programme or community mass testing for people without symptoms, you should not take part until 90 days after your last positive test.

Phone 111 if you’re concerned about new symptoms that could be coronavirus.