Self-isolation and daily testing for close contacts of COVID-19

When do close contacts need to self-isolate?

  1. Unvaccinated close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case are currently legally required to self-isolate unless they are taking part in an approved Workplace Daily Contact Testing (DCT) scheme. If you are not part of an approved Workplace DCT scheme you should follow current Government guidance for unvaccinated individuals,
  2. Children under the age of five do not need to do daily testing if they are identified as a contact but they should limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.

Who is eligible to test daily rather than self-isolate?

You are no longer legally required to self-isolate but are advised to test daily if you are a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case, who is not displaying any symptoms and is either:

  1. Fully vaccinated (current definition below) household and non-household adult close contacts.
  2. Have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial.
  3. Are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons.
  4. Below the age of 18 years 6 months (but five and over).

This applies to anyone resident in England at the time they are notified they are a close contact.

Fully vaccinated is defined as:

  • 14 days after your final dose of an approved vaccine. (Approved vaccines include MHRA vaccines administered in the UK, as part of the UK’s vaccination programme overseas and vaccines administered outside the UK which are recognised under the UK’s inbound travel policy and are on the WHO Emergency Use Listing)

FAQ on self-isolation and daily testing for close contacts of Covid

Is it a legal requirement to take part in daily testing if you are a contact?

No, but all fully vaccinated contacts are strongly advised to do daily testing for 7 days when asked to do so.

All contacts whether they test or not (and even if they test negative) should:

  • limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
  • work from home if they are able to
  • wear a face-covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where they are in close contact with other people
  • limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and
  • follow the guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread

What if I become symptomatic whilst testing? Does this change my eligibility?

If you become symptomatic and/or test positive on any of the LFD tests you take, you should self-isolate and order a symptomatic PCR test.

What happens if you're already isolating because of Omicron?

If you are fully vaccinated and currently isolating due to being a contact of someone that has Omicron, you no longer need to isolate and should take daily LFD tests for what would have been the remainder of the 10 day isolation period.

You are also strongly advised to limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in crowded or enclosed spaces and with anyone who is more vulnerable. You should continue to follow the current government guidance.

What do I do if I am already taking part in an approved Workplace Daily Contact Testing (DCT) scheme?

If you are unvaccinated and you are taking part in an approved DCT Workplace scheme you should follow the DCT Workplace protocol. This is a different scheme to the Daily Testing for Contacts of COVID-19 scheme which we have launched for the general public and which only applies to fully vaccinated contacts.

What do I do if I am already taking daily tests as part of my workplace policy?

If you are already taking daily tests as part of your workplace policy (for example in a higher risk workplace setting), you should continue to follow the specific guidance from your workplace on the testing and Infection Prevention and Control measures you need to take if you are identified as a contact. These may be different depending on the setting you work in.

If you choose to undertake daily testing for contacts of COVID-19, this should be treated as additional to the regular weekly testing you are currently doing in your workplace.

When do close contacts need to self-isolate?

  1. Unvaccinated close contacts are currently legally required to self-isolate unless they are taking part in an approved Workplace Daily Contact Testing (DCT) scheme. If you are not part of an approved Workplace DCT scheme you should follow current Government guidance for unvaccinated individuals.
  2. Children under the age of five do not need to do daily testing if they are identified as a contact but they should limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.

FAQs on testing for close contacts

Where can I get LFD tests and how long do I need to test for?

You can access test kits (in this order):

We ask that you do not stockpile tests, please only hold what you would need for one round of seven days testing for each member of your household. Each kit contains seven LFDs. Participants can contact 119 if they need support ordering/accessing test kits and for language support if English is not their first language.

What if I am eligible but can’t access test kits?

If you cannot access test kits, you do not have to self-isolate but as you could be at risk of having and spreading COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms, you should:

  • limit close contact with other people outside their household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
  • work from home if you are able to
  • wear a face-covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where you are in close contact with other people
  • limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and
  • follow the guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread

When should I start testing and how many tests should I take?

If you are eligible for daily testing for close contacts of COVID-19 you should:

  1. Obtain tests as soon as possible after having been notified that you are a contact.
  2. You don’t have to self-isolate whilst you wait to take your first test.
  3. Take an LFD test every day for 7 days, or until 10 days since your last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier. If you don't know the date of contact, you should take an LFD test every day for 7 days.
  4. Take this daily test before you leave the household for the first time that day.
  5. If you are a fully vaccinated worker in a vulnerable setting. such as a care home or a prison you should follow the testing protocol that they have provided.

How and where do I report my test results?

For every test that you take, you should report your LFD result.

Participants can contact 119 if they need support reporting their results and for language support if English is not their first language.

Will people be monitoring if I submit test results or not?

No, but we strongly advise you to upload all tests results 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.

How do my test results affect what I can and can’t do?

Positive LFD:

If you test positive with an LFD test you should self-isolate and order a PCR test to confirm the positive result.

Positive Confirmatory PCR:

If the PCR test is positive you must self-isolate for 10 days and should inform people you may think are a contact. 

Negative LFD:

If you test negative you could still be at risk of having and spreading COVID-19 even if you don’t have symptoms and you should still:

  • limit close contact with other people outside your household, especially in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces
  • work from home if you are able to
  • wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces and where you are in close contact with other people
  • limit contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19, and
  • follow the guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread

Negative confirmatory PCR:

If your LFD test result shows positive you should self-isolate and take a PCR test to confirm the result. If your PCR test is negative you no longer need to self-isolate, but you should continue to carry out the remainder of your daily tests.