Covid: How long should I self-isolate for under the current rules in Wales?

We have become accustom to a period of self-isolation for anyone in Wales who tests positive for coronavirus.

However with recent changes to the rules and differing requirements depending on vaccination status, you might be unsure how long you should be staying inside for and what tests you should be taking.

As of January 5, an estimated one in 20 people in Wales have the virus, meaning it is likely you or someone you know is quarantining.

So here is what you should do if you feel unwell, test positive or are identified as a close contact of someone with the virus.

  • I have Covid symptoms but have not had any test results back yet, should I self-isolate?

As soon as you start to exhibit symptoms you should self-isolate and book a PCR test. It does not matter if you have taken a lateral flow test or not, or if that lateral flow was positive or negative.

You should continue to stay in unless your PCR test result comes back negative.

If you are unable to get a PCR test but are showing symptoms of the virus, you should still isolate and continue to try and access a PCR test.

The main symptoms of Covid are:

  • High temperature

  • Continuous cough

  • Loss or change of taste or smell

Changes to the rules last year mean fully vaccinated close contacts don't need to isolate but can instead take lateral flow tests. Credit: PA Images
  • I have tested positive for Covid, how long should I isolate for?

If you have tested positive for Covid, either via a lateral flow or PCR test, you need to self-isolate.

You should self-isolate for a full seven days, with day one being either the day after you first started having symptoms or the day after you took your test if you are asymptomatic. If you do not have symptoms initially but do start to show signs of the virus during your isolation, your seven days restarts from the day after your symptoms started.

You can leave isolation on day eight, as long as you return two negative lateral flow tests.

  • What tests do I need to take to leave isolation on day eight and when should I take them?

If you have tested positive, you can leave self-isolation on day eight as long as you have returned a negative lateral flow test on day six and another on day seven. This is to check that you are no longer infectious.

If either of these are positive, you must remain in isolation until you have two negative results a day apart or isolated for ten days - whichever comes first.

It is important to note that if you still have a high temperature after the seven days, you should carry on isolating until your temperature has returned to normal - even if you have had two negative lateral flow test results.

This rule does not apply if you have a cough or are still experiencing changes to your sense of taste or smell after seven days. These symptoms can last for several weeks and do not mean you are still contagious.

People can leave isolation on day eight if they return two negative lateral flow test results - one on day six and one on day seven. Credit: PA Images
  • Can I go out like normal after my two negative lateral flow tests?

Even though you are able to leave quarantine on day eight after testing negative twice, the Welsh Government "strongly" advises that people avoid certain situations and places for the full ten days.

This includes not visiting vulnerable people in places like care homes or hospitals, avoiding crowded places, minimising contact with others generally and working from home.

On day 11 after your self-isolation period started you can stop following that extra advice.

  • I live with someone who has tested positive, do I need to self-isolate?

For close contacts, the rules are different and depend on your vaccination status and age.

If you have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine or are aged between five and 17, you do not need to isolate if you are identified as a close contact of a positive case. This applies even if you live with them.

However you are advised to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days or until ten days since your last contact with the person who tested positive, to check you have not caught the virus. If you develop symptoms, you should book a PCR as soon as possible.

If any of the daily lateral flow tests are positive, you must self-isolate for seven full days starting from the date of the positive lateral flow. People who are asymptomatic no longer need to book a follow-up PCR test following a positive lateral flow, unless you are in a clinically vulnerable group.

If you are 18 and over and not fully vaccinated, you must self-isolate for ten days starting from the day you were last in contact with the person who tested positive.

You should take a lateral flow test on day two and day eight and complete the full ten days isolation, even if they are negative.

Even after seven days of isolation and two negative lateral flows, people are advised to avoid places like care homes for ten days.
  • Are there different isolation rules for key workers?

If you work in health and social care or a special educational provision, you should talk to your manager and take additional precautions before heading back to work.

Your employer might ask you to take extra tests, not return to work yet or come back into a role where you are not dealing with high-risk individuals.

  • What about for people coming back to Wales from a holiday abroad?

The Welsh Government has followed England's move to scrap isolation for fully vaccinated people, or those under the age of 18, who arrive from abroad. In terms of testing, that is changing too from January 7 and now fully vaccinated travellers just need to take a lateral flow test on day two.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you must still isolate. The Welsh Government's website says you must do this for ten days as well as taking a PCR test on or before your second day back in Wales - and then again on day eight.