When schools returned in September, concerns were immediately raised about what the self isolation rules would be if one child in a class tested positive for coronavirus.
So what are the self-isolation rules for the UK? Parents, students and teachers alike, along with many other people still working during the pandemic, have many questions about what the self-isolation rules are during these difficult times.
Especially as, now we’re a couple of months into the year, nearly half of all secondary schools in England and Northern Ireland have had to send pupils home due to infection.
There are also new government guidelines for November and rules on exercise during the lockdown, as well as measures to prevent people from travelling outside of the UK. This, plus the idea that we might not be out of lockdown until March 2021, has many people very worried about self isolating correctly.
If someone in your household hasn’t tested positive for coronavirus but has been told to quarantine, does that mean you have to too? What about if the school sends home one child after a positive test, but a sibling is still going into school?
These are your questions, answered.
When should I self-isolate?
It’s important to self-isolate if you show any symptoms of Covid-19 including a high temperature, new and continuous cough and a loss of taste and/or smell. But you are also required to self-isolate for the following reasons…
- You have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
- You live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive.
- Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19.
- NHS Test and Trace has contacted you and told you to self-isolate.
- You’ve arrived from a country on the UK quarantine list.
As soon as one of these things happen, it’s vital to self-isolate to stop the spread of Covid-19, “particularly to people who could become very sick if they catch the virus.”
What are the self-isolation rules in the UK?
Under the government’s self-isolation rules, this is what you should and shouldn’t do if you have to self isolate…
- Do not leave the house under any circumstances, except for medical emergencies.
- Do not go outdoors for exercise, work out at home instead.
- Do not go to work and children are not allowed to go to school.
- Do not use any public transport or taxis.
- Have food and medicine delivered by a delivery service, or family and friends but they’re not allowed to come inside the house.
- Do not have anyone from outside of the household come into the house. This includes other family members (including grandparents), childminders, cleaners, tradespeople, etc.
The aim of self-isolation is to stop the spread of the virus so avoiding contact with anyone outside your household, who might have already been exposed to the virus is essential.
Self-isolation rules: If someone in my household has to quarantine do I?
If someone in a household or support bubble has tested positive for the virus and has to quarantine then all members of the household also have to quarantine. The same goes for if one household member has been contacted by test and trace and told to self isolate; all must quarantine with them until there’s a negative test or the self-isolation period is over.
However if one member of the household has just returned from somewhere on the quarantine list of countries to the UK and that’s why they have to quarantine, without any symptoms, then the other members of the household or support bubble aren’t required to do the same. But if possible, they should remain at a social distance from the self-isolating individual.
The only case currently where this is different is for those coming from Denmark. Due to a new outbreak of coronavirus from the country’s mink population, anyone returning to the UK from Denmark and any members of the household and support bubble must self-isolate.
Self-isolation rules: What to do if your child is sent home from school to self-isolate
If your child has been sent home from school because someone in their ‘bubble’ or class has tested positive for the virus then they have to self-isolate at home. But any parents, family members or siblings in the household or support bubble aren’t required to do the same, unless the child starts to develop symptoms of Covid-19.
Then the whole house has to self-isolate under the medical advice issued by the government.
Naturally this is controversial among some families as if a child has been potentially exposed to the virus through their sibling at home, many believe that the child should then not be allowed to go back into school and risk spreading the virus further.
However, the fact that they don’t is one of the reasons behind why schools are staying open during lockdown. The government has prioritised the right for children to have an education this time around, as studies revealed that children’s education (in some cases more than others) suffered immensely under the first round of lockdown restrictions.
Self-isolation rules: If my wife/husband/partner has to self isolate do I?
If your wife, husband or significant other that you share a room with has to self-isolate because they have been diagnosed with the virus, then certainly yes, you do have to self-isolate.
Couples must also self-isolate if one has been contacted by the test and trace system and told they have been exposed to the virus, at least until the self-isolation period is over or the exposed individual has received a negative test.
If one person is self-isolating because they have come back from a country not on the quarantine-free list of countries, then both don’t have to self-isolate by law.
However, due to the intimate nature of probably sharing a bedroom and other confined spaces with each other, it’s unlikely that couples will be able to appropriately socially distance from each other so it’s important to remain vigilant and always get a test for coronavirus if there are any symptoms.
Under the self-isolation rules for the UK, a similar situation could apply for those sharing bedrooms in a house share at university for instance.
How many days do you have to self-isolate?
Under the UK self-isolation rules, if you have tested positive for the virus then you have to quarantine for 10 days. This includes those who have tested positive but don’t have symptoms of coronavirus.
However, if you have to self-isolate because you’ve been contacted by test and trace, have come back from a non-quarantine-free country or because you know you have come into contact with someone with the virus (in your household or support bubble for example), then you have to quarantine for 14 days.
After these two periods, if the quarantining person doesn’t display any symptoms or receives a negative test result then they can come out of self-isolation.
If you have to self-isolate will you be paid?
As of March 13 2020, any employees who are forced to self-isolate for a number of reasons must receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from their first absent day of work.
According to ACAS, employees will receive SSP if they have to self-isolate for the following reasons:
- They have coronavirus.
- They have symptoms of coronavirus, such as a high temperature, a new and continuous cough, a loss of or damage to the sense of taste or smell.
- They live with someone who has confirmed coronavirus.
- They live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms.
- They have been advised to stay at home by their doctor because of an underlying health condition.
- A doctor or NHS 111 has told them to self-isolate.
- The test and trace service has told them to self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
This means that those who have to self-isolate because they have gone on holiday to a country not on the quarantine-safe list are not entitled legally to sick pay.
How to self-isolate at home with family
While many of us know these rules, as they have been in place since people first started self-isolating in March, they can be difficult to follow after months of being at home.
Have a look at these tips from behavioural psychologist Richard Daniel Curtis on how to self-isolate at home with family…
“It is important that we recognise the flexibility required to work and look after children.” He says, especially considering that childcare is off the table for all those in self-isolation. “More often, it is about our stresses and unrealistic expectations that cause difficulties.”
Working from home in self-isolation
Richard suggests that if possible, parents and household members could alter their work patterns or break the day up. “I aim to work for 30-40 minutes of an hour and then spend 15-20 minutes with the children,” He says, “So they feel they have my attention without needing to interrupt me on calls.
“Even when they do, I will warn the person I am speaking to. I can hear my child coming and apologise in advance. If I need to speak to my children, I mute myself as a sign of manners.
“The reality is we are all in the same boat and from their end, it makes it alright for their children, pets, postal deliveries, phone doctors appointments to interrupt the meeting too.”
Looking after children in quarantine
Grandparents, childminders and other carers that might normally look after children too young to go to school aren’t allowed to come round if a household is quarantining. This means that, much like in the initial lockdown, parents and carers are once again having to work from home (if possible) and look after their children at the same time.
The most important thing, Richard says, is to “be present with your children when you are spending time with them. Yes, we all have things on our minds and stuff to do, but that’s not their stress. They are far less likely to seek your attention when you are working if they have your full attention at other times.”
Encouraging children to stay on top of work
A recent survey from Broadband Genie found that 95% of teachers believe that additional school closures will have a real impact on student’s school work and that 80% had made less progress than normal when working from home.
So encouraging children to stay on top of school work while they’re at home is really important. But as Richard reminds us, we’re in a pandemic and nothing is as it should be.
“In my opinion, the important thing is not to keep on top of the full schoolwork schedules, but keep it fun.” He advises, “A massive challenge in my field at the moment is about avoiding mental trauma and if a child learns to switch off from learning because of conflict, this will have longer implications than them not completing every activity set for them during this time.
“Focus on teaching a love of learning, not simply a completion of learning.”
This might include new, fun ways to learn outside of the classroom like through watching films about the period of history they’re studying or following along with some of the fun homeschool resources that have been made available over the last few months.
And on the weekends? It’s back to classic lockdown activities like baking, watching films, Zoom calls with family members and playing in the garden. Whether good or bad, at least the self isolation rules for the UK mean that you only have to quarantine for a maximum of two weeks.