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Close contact and casual contact

Last updated: 22 September 2020 at 4.25pm

If you come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), you may be told that you are a:

Close contact

This is only a guide but close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of someone who has COVID-19, indoor or outdoor
  • living in the same house or shared accommodation as someone who has COVID-19
  • sitting within 2 seats of someone who has COVID-19 on public transport or an airplane

Spending more than 2 hours in an indoor space with someone who has COVID-19 will sometimes count as close or casual contact. This could be an office or a classroom. But it will depend on the size of the room and other factors. Public health doctors or contact tracers will let you know if you are at risk during contact tracing and public health risk assessments.

How you'll know if you are a close contact

You'll usually find out if you are a close contact from the:

What to do if you are a close contact

If you are a close contact you need to:

You can become a close contact on more than one occasion. You will need to restrict your movements each time.

If you are an essential healthcare worker, ring your manager and occupational health department. Do not go to work until you have spoken to them.

Getting a test

If our contact tracing team contact you, they will arrange a test.

Second tests for close contacts

You will get a second test even if your first test is negative. This is because it can take up to 14 days for the virus to show up in your system after you have been exposed to it.

You will need to continue to restrict your movements, even if your first test was negative.

A contact tracer will ask you for the date that you last had contact with a positive case. You will automatically get invited for a second test 7 days after this date.

If you do not know when your last contact took place, the contact tracer will record the date of the interview as the last date of contact. Your second test will be for 7 days after this date.

If you are not a close contact and your GP refers you for a test (separate to contact tracing), you will just get one test. In this case, you will not get a second test.

Follow up from contact tracer

During the 14 days you are restricting your movements a contact tracer will text or phone you to check if you have any symptoms. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP.

Living with someone who is a close contact

You do not need to restrict your movements if you live with or have been in contact with a person who has been told they are a close contact.

But you may be at risk of catching COVID-19 if you live with them and they become unwell. You should follow the advice about protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.

You will become a close contact yourself if they test positive for COVID-19.

Read more about when you might become a close contact and what you will need to do.

Casual contact

This is only a guide but casual contact can mean:

  • spending less than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person, indoor or outdoor
  • being in the same room as an infected person for less than 2 hours
  • being on public transport or an airplane with an infected person but not sitting near them

Spending more than 2 hours in an indoor space with a person who has COVID-19 will sometimes count as casual contact. This could be an office or a classroom. But it will depend on the size of the room and other factors. Public health teams who risk asses or contact tracers will let you know if you are at risk during contact tracing.

What to do if you are a casual contact

If you are a casual contact you should know the symptoms of COVID-19 and be aware that you may develop them.

You do not need to restrict your movements, but you should continue to follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others.

If you develop coronavirus symptoms

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you will need to self-isolate and phone your GP straight away to get a test.

Other people you live with will need to restrict their movements.

Related topics

If you live with other people and are self-isolating

Restricted movements

Treat COVID-19 symptoms at home

Travel advice from the Government

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app