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What Self-Isolation Means to You.

March 12, 2020

These days, along with Covid-19 transmission and prevention, self-isolation is a term that we all learn to live with. Several months away from the pandemic, it’s important that you are doing so properly but in a way that does not affect your physical and mental health. Here, we offer suggestions for ways you can do so.

On this page, we talked about the practical implications for Covid-19; especially for people living in areas recording cases of a new infection.

Here, we shed some light on a key factor in efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19; that is self-isolation.

What does ‘self-isolate’ mean?

The term means keeping yourself away from the general public (usually in your own private residence) for a set period of time.

At present, we are still studying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for Covid-19 infection.

Some very recent studies estimate the incubation period for Covid-19 to be about 5.1 -5.8 days.

Incubation period means the period of time from when a person is infected (the virus enters the system) to when they begin to display symptoms of ill health.

Presently, it is thought that those who develop symptoms will do so within about 11.5 days of infection.

In the UK, the recommended self-isolation period for Covid-19 in persons WITHOUT symptoms who have been exposed to a confirmed individual/contact is 14 days.

However, when a person has developed mild symptoms, it is thought that they will no longer be likely to transmit the virus 7 days after the onset of the symptoms.

The recommended self-isolation period for this group of people is thus 7 days.

If you do carry on having symptoms after 7 days, please call (not visit) your doctor.

“Self-isolation is about protecting others and slowing down the spread of COVID-19.”

Public Health England

Who needs to self-isolate?

There are quite a significant number of people who require self-isolating.

People can decide to self-isolate based on the advice provided by their local health departments or as directed specifically by their health provider.

  • People who have just returned home from certain areas deemed as ‘high risk’.
    • Usually, this will apply whether you have symptoms or not.
    • The advice on which areas are relevant will be communicated by the local health department, but you can ask your doctor by calling in if unsure.
  • People who have symptoms of Covid-19.
    • This refers to people with mild symptoms who can remain at home and do not need hospital admission.
  • People waiting for the results from Covid-19 swab test.
  • People who have had a test will be asked to self -isolate until the results are available and; depending on their recent travel.
  • People who are contacts of a confirmed person.
    • We define contacts as :
      • someone living in the same household as a person who has been infected.
      • a health worker who is in direct contact with the infected person, caring for them directly without adequate personal protection, or a laboratory clinician working with infected fluids.
      • Anyone who has had any direct contact with an infected person (work colleagues, for example).
      • A person who has been within 2 metres of the infected person for any other reason – for longer than 15 minutes
      • A person who has been told by their local health authority that they have been in contact with a confirmed case (eg contact on same flight/school etc).

What do you do when ‘self-isolating’?

These are the practical meanings of self-isolating:

  • Once you need to self-isolate, return to your home (or where you are presently staying) using your usual means of transport.
  • As soon as you get home, remain indoors and avoid contact with others.
  • So if you live alone, this is fairly simple.
  • If you live with others, you will need to think carefully about your arrangements.
    • It is important that you separate yourself from other people in your home.
    • Importantly, if you share facilities like toilets and bathrooms, regular cleaning is necessary
    • We recommend staying in a well-ventilated room with a window you can open, separate from others at home.
  • This will prevent you from spreading the disease to your family, friends and the wider community.
  • Once home, avoid going out again.
    • This means not going to work, school or other public areas (parties, church, mosque, gym, club etc)
    • You should avoid using public transportation including buses, trains, taxis, trams etc
  • You cannot have visitors while you are self-isolating
  • For groceries/ any other essential supplies, you can ask friends/families to procure and deliver them to you.
  • Don’t forget to arrange for your medicines – whether regular prescribed.
    • Keep a supply of fever medicine like paracetamol and Ibuprofen to manage mild symptoms if needed.
  • Remember, other household members, staying with you are self-isolating -(unless you are positive for Covid-19).
    • If you live in shared accommodation with a communal kitchen, bathroom(s) and living area, we recommend staying in your room with the door shut.
    • Hence, you will only come out when necessary (wearing a facemask if given one).

Last word

Staying isolated can be quite difficult, especially if you are usually quite active.

Some people can work from home, but if not, we advise you to have lots of activities to occupy yourself – such as books, games, online or audio versions of books/games.

Don’t forget you can be in touch with friends and family on the phone, skype or other means so use them when possible till the end of your isolation.

If you need any answers about issues around self-isolation, ask here.

More Reading:


Editing By AskAwayHealth


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of health care conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality health care. 
The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified health care practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly through

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