COVID-19 rules

New rules: COVID-19

Living safely with respiratory infections, including COVID-19

  • If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you are advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people especially those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness.

Symptoms of COVID-19, flu and common respiratory infections include:

  • continuous cough
  • high temperature, fever or chills
  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
  • muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
  • not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
  • headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick

If you need to leave the house you should wear a face covering, avoid crowded places such as public transport and practise good hygiene:

  • wash your hands
  • cover your coughs and sneezes
  • clean your surroundings frequently

If you test positive for Covid-19 you should follow the same guidance and stay home for five days following your test. At the end of this period, if you have a high temperature or feel unwell, try to follow this advice until you feel well enough to resume normal activities and you no longer have a high temperature if you had one. You should avoid meeting people at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19 for 10 days after the day you took your test.

Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school, college or childcare, and resume normal activities when they no longer have a high temperature and they are well enough to attend.

If a child or young person has a positive COVID-19 test result they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day they took the test, if they can. After 3 days, if they feel well and do not have a high temperature, the risk of passing the infection on to others is much lower.

  • Free testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) from the NHS has ended for most people in England. If you still want to get tested and you're not eligible for a free NHS test, you must pay for a COVID-19 test yourself. You can buy a COVID-19 test from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online.
  • There are a small number of people who will still be able to get free COVID-19 tests from the NHS. (
  • If you have a health condition which means you're eligible for new COVID-19 treatments (you should be sent a COVID-19 test to use if you have symptoms. You can order free NHS tests yourself, if you have not received any tests yet or have used the tests you've been sent)
  • If you're going into hospital for surgery or a procedure, you may need to get tested. (Your hospital will tell you how to get a test. Contact your hospital department if you have any questions.)
  • If you work in the NHS or in social care in one of the following roles:
  • NHS patient-facing staff
  • staff who deliver NHS services through an independent healthcare provider, and have direct contact with NHS patients
  • a social worker
  • a personal assistant
  • a Shared Lives carer
  • a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspector
  • If you work in care homes, domiciliary care, extra care and supported living services, and adult day care centres

Adult Social Care Testing

  • Care homes and homecare organisations are eligible for free testing if they are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Extra care and supported living settings are eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:
    • the setting is a closed community with substantial facilities shared between multiple people
    • it is a setting where the majority of residents (more than 50%) receive the kind of personal care that is CQC-regulated (rather than help with cooking, cleaning and shopping)
  • Day care centres are eligible if they are run by paid care staff. Services must be for adults over 18 and must be provided within non-residential care settings that support the health and wellbeing of adults. This includes settings such as purpose-built day centres.
  • Personal assistants are eligible if they are directly employed by an individual (or self-employed) to provide care and support to an adult to enable them to live as independently as possible.
  • Shared Lives carers are eligible if they are working with a regulated Shared Lives scheme to provide care and support to an adult to enable them to live as independently as possible.
  • Social workers are eligible if they work with adults requiring support for their health, wellbeing and social care needs and are regulated by Social Work England.

Symptomatic testing:

  • If an individual experiences any of the main symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), they should immediately take a lateral flow device (LFD) test as soon as they develop symptoms and take another LFD test 48 hours after the first test.
  • Symptomatic staff should stay away from work and conduct the LFD test at home. Staff can come into work if both LFD test results are negative and medically fit to do so.
  • Symptomatic residents (in extra care settings, supported living settings, and care homes) should be isolated immediately and tested with LFDs. As far as possible, residents should be offered the choice to either self-administer the tests or to have the tests administered by a suitable member of staff. Residents can stop self-isolating if both LFD tests are negative.

Asymptomatic staff testing:

  • Staff should conduct 2 LFD tests per week, taking them before they begin work, spaced 3 to 4 days apart. This also applies to live-in carers.

Rapid response testing in care homes and high-risk extra care and supported living:

  • If an individual (staff or resident) receives a positive result from either a PCR or LFD in a care home, adult day care centre, or high-risk extra care and supported living setting, then all staff should conduct daily rapid LFD testing every day that they are working, for 5 days. Only the staff working in the setting over the rapid response testing period need to be tested.

Outbreak testing in care homes:

  • An outbreak consists of 2, or more, positive (or clinically suspected) linked cases of COVID-19 that occur in the same setting within a 14-day period. This applies to both staff and residents, and includes PCR and LFD results.
  • If the manager suspects an outbreak in your care home, they should contact the health protection team (HPT) (or community infection prevention and control team, local authority, or clinical commissioning group (CCG) who will conduct a risk assessment, including whether the cases are likely to be linked. Following this risk assessment, the HPT may advise whole home outbreak testing.

Ordering test kits:

  • Accessing through a unique organisation number (UON) - applies to care homes, homecare, extra care and supported living and day care centres only
  • Onboarding for testing in extra care, supported living, and adult day care centres. Use the self-referral portalto request a testing account.
  • Ordering test kits without a UON, Personal assistants, Shared Lives carers and social workers should order tests via the online government portal. You do not need a UON.


Registering and reporting testing:


  • Register and return PCR tests – applies to care home outbreak testing only. You must register every COVID-19 test to receive a result. Where applicable, PCRs should be registered using the organisation’s UON.
  • Reporting the result of every LFD test is encouraged, even if it is negative or void. Staff members can register LFD tests individually, or managers can register them in bulk using the multiple upload spreadsheet. Where organisations have a UON, staff should report results using that UON.

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