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Close contact and casual contact

We are at full capacity for COVID-19 tests and need to prioritise people who have symptoms. Close contacts will not be tested during this time. If you are a close contact you need to restrict your movements (stay at home), even if you feel well. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate (stay in your room) and phone your GP for further advice.

If you come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus), you may be a close contact.

Close contact

Close contact can mean:

  • spending more than 15 minutes of face-to-face contact within 2 metres of someone who has COVID-19, indoors or outdoors
  • 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.

Healthcare workers should follow separate advice:

What to do if you are a close contact

If you are a close contact you need to restrict your movements (stay at home) for 14 days, even if you feel well.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate (stay in your room) and phone your GP for further advice.

How you'll know if you are a close contact

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

  • a text message from the contact tracing team
  • the COVID Tracker app
  • the public health team investigating confirmed cases within a specific setting. For example, a nursing home, workplace or school

When you are a close contact

You will be a close contact if the person you were in contact with:

  • had symptoms of COVID-19 and you were in contact with them up to 48 hours before they developed symptoms and started self-isolating
  • did not have symptoms and you were in contact with them up to 24 hours before they tested positive

If you are a close contact but have not been contacted

If you believe you are a close contact but have not been contacted by contact tracing restrict your movements (stay at home).

Other household members

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, other members of the household do not need to restrict their movements.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you will need to self-isolate and other members of the household will need to restrict their movements.

If you are caring for someone who cannot self-isolate, you and the rest of the household should restrict your movements for 17 days. Do this from when they first developed symptoms or when they tested positive, if they did not have symptoms.

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

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

Close contacts of travellers from Great Britain, South Africa or South America

If you are a close contact of someone who tested positive after arriving into Ireland from Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales), South Africa or South America, phone your GP. They will prioritise you for a COVID-19 test even though we are not currently testing close contacts in general.

Living with someone who is a close contact

You do not need to restrict your movements if you have been in contact with someone who is a close contact and has no symptoms. You can continue to go to work, school, preschool or childcare as long as you also have no symptoms.

If the close contact develops symptoms, they will need to self-isolate and phone a GP. You will become a close contact if they test positive for COVID-19. You will need to restrict your movements.

Casual contact

You may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, but you do not meet the definition to be a close contact. This is a casual contact.

If you are a casual contact, you do not need to restrict your movements. Continue to follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others. If you are a casual contact, you do not need to be tested.

Related topics

If you live with other people and are self-isolating

Treat COVID-19 symptoms at home

Travel advice from the Government

Last updated: 18 January 2021 at 12.15pm

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