Skip to main content

We use small files called cookies to help us improve your experience on this website and to provide services like web chat. We also use cookies to measure the effectiveness of public health campaigns and understand how people use the website.

Read our cookies policy to find out more about cookies and how we use them.

Last updated: 25 September 2020 at 4.00pm

Self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding contact with other people. This includes other people in your household, as much as possible.

You will need to self-isolate:

  • if you have symptoms of COVID-19
  • while you wait for a test appointment and your test results, if you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you are being tested as a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 and you don’t have any symptoms, you should restrict your movements instead
  • if you have had a positive test result for COVID-19

Most people with COVID-19 will only have mild symptoms and will get well within weeks. Even if you have mild symptoms or no symptoms, you can still spread the virus to others. If your symptoms get worse, get medical help.

Read advice from on travel into Ireland from a country not on the 'COVID-19 green list' and when you need to restrict your movements.

How to self-isolate

Stay indoors and avoid contact with other people. Behave as if you have the virus if you have symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms, the people you live with will need to restrict their movements.


Stay at home, in a room with a window you can open.

Keep away from others in your home as much as you can. Use a separate toilet if possible.

Check your symptoms - call a doctor if they get worse. Phone your doctor if you need to - do not visit them.

Cover your coughs and sneezes using a tissue - clean your hands properly afterwards.

Wash your hands properly and often.

Use your own towel - do not share a towel with others.

Clean your room every day with a household cleaner or disinfectant.


Do not go outside unless you have your own outdoor space where you can get some fresh air.

Do not go to work, school, religious services or public areas.

Do not share your things. For example, food, dishes, drinking glasses or other household items.

Do not use public transport or taxis.

Do not invite visitors to your home.

Keep away from older people, anyone with long-term medical conditions and pregnant women.

It's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food or supplies. Make sure you're not in the same room as them when they do.

Watch out for signs that you are getting worse

You may be self-isolating because you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you are, phone your GP if you start to feel very unwell, particularly if your breathing changes or becomes difficult, or your cough gets worse.

If you are very short of breath and cannot reach someone, call the emergency services on 112 or 999.

If you develop a fever or any respiratory symptoms, phone your GP.

When you can stop self-isolating

Only stop self-isolation when both of these apply to you:

  • you have had no fever for 5 days
  • it has been 10 days since you first developed symptoms

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

If you live with other people and you are self-isolating

Keep away from other people in your home as much as you can.

Stay in a separate room with a window you can open.

If you have to go into a room with other people in it, try to keep a distance of 2 metres. If that is not possible, keep a distance of at least 1 metre from other people and wear a medical face mask.

If you can, use a toilet and bathroom that no one else in the house uses. If you have to share a bathroom with others, use the bathroom last and then clean it thoroughly.

Do not share any items you’ve used with other people.

Things you should not share include:

  • food
  • dishes
  • drinking glasses
  • cups
  • knives, forks and spoons
  • towels
  • bedding


If possible, have someone leave your food on a tray at your bedroom door.

When you have finished, leave everything on the tray at the door.

This should be collected and put in a dishwasher and hands washed properly afterwards.

If you don't have a dishwasher:

  • wash in hot soapy water, wearing rubber gloves
  • leave to air dry
  • wash the rubber gloves while you are still wearing them
  • remove gloves and wash your hands

Wash your hands often

Wash your hands properly and often with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough and sneeze.

Put used tissues into a bin and wash your hands.

How to wash your hands properly

Using the bathroom

If possible use a toilet that no one else is using.

If that is not possible and you do not have your own toilet or bathroom, clean your hands before entering, after using the toilet and before you leave the room.

Clean any surfaces you have touched after using the bath or shower. Do not share your towels with anyone else.

If you are not well enough to do this yourself, someone else in the house can do this for you. The person should use household or rubber gloves if they can. They should wash and dry the gloves after each use. They should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after taking off the gloves.

Use a detergent or disinfectant to clean your home

Many cleaning and disinfectant products sold in supermarkets can kill COVID-19 on surfaces.

Use your usual household products, like detergents and bleach, as these are very good at getting rid of the virus. Follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s label and check they can be used on the surface you are cleaning.

Clean all surfaces every day as usual with a detergent, disinfectant or disinfectant wipe.

This includes:

  • counters
  • table-tops
  • doorknobs
  • bathroom fixtures
  • toilets and toilet handles
  • phones
  • keyboards
  • tablets
  • bedside tables

Clean remote controls, games consoles and similar items thoroughly before anyone else in the house uses them. If you cough or sneeze on them wipe them clean immediately.

If you have rubber gloves, wear them when cleaning surfaces, clothing or bedding. Wash the gloves while still wearing them, then wash your hands after you take them off.

Wash reusable cleaning cloths in a hot wash cycle of a washing machine after use. Put disposable gloves and cleaning cloths in a plastic waste bag after using them.

If you are not well enough to do this yourself, someone else in the house can do this for you. The person should use household or rubber gloves if they can. They should wash and dry the gloves after each use. They should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after taking off the gloves.

Read advice on good hygiene and hand washing.


Put your dirty laundry in a plastic bag. Have someone collect it from your bedroom door. If possible, they should wear rubber gloves.

They should:

  • hold the laundry away from themselves
  • wash the laundry at the highest temperature for the material, with a laundry detergent
  • clean all surfaces and the area around the washing machine
  • wash the rubber gloves while still wearing them
  • wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after removing the gloves or handling dirty laundry

If possible tumble dry and iron using a hot setting or steam iron.

Do not take laundry to a launderette.

Managing rubbish

Put all personal waste, including used tissues, masks and all cleaning waste in a plastic rubbish bag. Tie the bag when it is almost full. Place the plastic bag in a second bin bag and tie the bag.

Leave the bag somewhere safe. The bags should be left for 3 days before collection.

Dispose of other waste the way you usually would.

If you are not well enough to do this yourself, someone else in the house can do this for you. The person should use household or rubber gloves if they can. They should wash and dry the gloves after each use. They should wash their hands thoroughly.

Face masks

You may have to be in a room with someone who has COVID-19. If you do, the person with COVID-19 should wear a face mask. They should put it on and take it off in the room in which they are self-isolating.

You should also wear a face covering or face mask while in the same room as someone with COVID-19.

Read more about face coverings, medical masks and disposable gloves.

Keeping well during self-isolation

Keep yourself mobile by getting up and moving around as much as possible. If you have a garden, backyard or balcony go out and get some fresh air. 

Keep a distance of 2 metres away from other people. If that is not possible, keep a distance of at least 1 metre from other people and wear a medical face mask.

Stay hydrated and try to avoid alcohol if you are not feeling well.

Read about smoking and COVID-19.

Stay in touch with people over the phone. Ask a family member, friend or neighbour to check in with you over the phone a few times every day. Let them know how you are feeling. 

Older people can phone the charity ALONE on 0818 222 024 from Monday to Sunday, 8am to 8pm.

Self-isolation can be boring or frustrating. It may affect your mood and feelings. You may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping.

Read advice about minding your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow this advice to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Read advice on protecting your child from COVID-19.

If you are living on your own

Local authorities and other organisations are providing help for people in the community.

They can help people living on their own with:

  • collection and delivery of food, essential household items, fuel, and medication
  • social isolation
  • other medical or healthcare needs

Read more about community support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read more about COVID-19 community assessment hubs.

Caring for someone in self-isolation

It may not be possible for some people with COVID-19 to self-isolate. For example, a young child or someone who needs care.

If you are caring for someone who has COVID-19 there is a risk that you could become infected too. You should restrict your movements during their 10 days of isolation and continue to restrict your movements for 7 days after their self-isolation ends.

You should also:

  • wash your hands properly every time you have contact with the person
  • if you have face masks, both of you should wear one when you have to be in the same room if possible – read about who should not wear a face mask
  • if you have to clean phlegm or spit from their face use a clean tissue, put it into a waste bag and wash your hands
  • put them in a well-ventilated room alone
  • limit their movement in the house
  • get them to use a different toilet if possible
  • limit the number of caregivers
  • keep them away from older people, people with long-term conditions or pregnant women

If possible, only one person should look after the person self-isolating.

Ideally, this would be someone who is in good health. This means someone who is not at risk of severe infection such as someone:

  • with a long-term illness
  • with a weak immune system
  • older than 70

Related topics

When to get medical help

Treat COVID-19 symptoms at home

Travel advice from the Government

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app