COVID-19 and Self-isolation

23rd April 2020


The Patient and Client Council are here to help you navigate your health and social care.
Our freephone (0800 917 0222) has expert advisors answering your concerns and queries 7 days a week – ensuring you get the most accurate and up to date information from a trusted source.

We have recently received queries from the public in relation to self- isolation and wanted to share with you some key facts.

You must self-isolate if you have either:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature);
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

Everyone in your house must stay at home.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you’ll need to self-isolate for 7 days;

if you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms;

however, if you develop symptoms during this 14-day period, you’ll need to self-isolate for 7 days from the day your symptoms started (regardless of what day you are on in the original 14-day period). This may mean you have to self-isolate for a maximum of 21 days.

What does self-isolation mean?

Self –isolation means that you should:

  • stay at home
  • stay in touch with others over the phone or through social media
  • ask friends or family members to bring you things you need such as medication or use delivery services for shopping but make sure these are left outside your home for you to collect
  • separate yourself from others with the door closed or stay at least 2 metres (about 3 steps) away from people in your home
  • stay away from vulnerable individuals such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions as much as possible
  • stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened to keep clean air moving
  • sleep alone, if possible
  • clean toilets/bathrooms after your use if you share them with others (eg wiping surfaces you have come into contact with every time)
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water
  • use separate towels at all times from others in the household

You should not:

  • go to work, school or public areas
  • go out for a walk unless you have access to your own garden
  • use public transport or taxis
  • invite visitors into your home
  • share towels, bedding or eating utensils and dishes, cups or glasses.

Do I need to see my GP or be tested before I self-isolate (stay at home)?

You do not need to contact or see your GP before self-isolating, but you should contact your GP if:

  • your symptoms worsen
  • you are no better after 7 days
  • you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home

Northern Ireland now has full access to the NHS 111 helpline service on COVID-19 – phone this should you be very concerned about your condition.

In a medical emergency if you need to call an ambulance you should dial 999, and make sure you say that you have symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

How long should I self-isolate for?

  • If you have symptoms, stay at home for 7 days after the onset of symptoms
  • If you have symptoms and live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms (new advice as of 16 March)

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system (see ‘increased risk’ list here), try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Once you feel better and no longer have a high temperature you can return to your normal routine. Your cough may persist but a cough alone doesn’t mean you must self-isolate for more than 7 days. If your symptoms have not improved after 7 days and you haven’t already sought medical advice, please follow the guidance here.


If you need help, but you’re not sure who to contact, the Executive has set up a Freephone community helpline for all citizens to provide access to advice, help and guidance. It will also connect people to more specialist or practical supports in their local area.

To get in touch for advice you can phone, email or text message, the service will initially be available daily from 9am to 5pm.

Telephone: 0808 802 0020

Text: ACTION to 81025.