Posted By Richard Holmes

Posted on7th April 2020

The advice from the government has changed as the number of coronavirus cases have increased, which makes it hard to know what you’re expected to do to help stop the spread.

There are two main forms of guidance to help protect yourself and others: social distancing and self-isolating.

Social distancing

The government is enforcing social distancing for everyone in the UK. The definition has changed over time and is now a strict policy of ‘stay at home’. It’s the most important thing we can all do to help slow the spread of the virus.

The rules say you can only leave the house for very limited purposes:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home.

Gatherings of more than two people have been banned, unless they’re from the same household.

Many businesses and venues have been closed to prevent people coming into contact with each other including pubs, cinemas, theatres and shops deemed to be ‘non-essential’. Places of worship have been closed for everything apart from funerals attended by the immediate family.

The police have now been given the power to issue fines to people who aren’t following the rules.


Self-isolating applies if you feel like you have the symptoms of coronavirus, or live in the same house as someone who is displaying the symptoms.

  • If you live alone and have symptoms, you should stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started
  • If you live with others and you are the first in the household to have symptoms, you must stay at home for 7 days. All other household members who remain well must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.
  • Anyone else in the household who starts displaying symptoms needs to stay at home for 7 days from when the symptoms appeared. In this case, the 14 day isolation period explained in the point above should be disregarded.

If this is confusing, have a look at our useful tool to help determine how long you should stay isolated for.

Self-Isolation within the home

Whether it’s housemates or family, it can be difficult to know what self-isolation means when you share your home with others.

It might seem impossible to stay away from those you live with, but social distancing at home can help limit the risk of infecting others, particularly those who are vulnerable including people over 70 and those who are pregnant, have a respiratory issue or weakened immune system.

How to self-isolate in a shared home:


  • Try and stay away from others as much as possible, keeping a two-metre distance from other people.
  • Sleep alone if possible.
  • Make sure all members of the household wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Regularly open windows in shared spaces to encourage ventilation.
  • Double-bag rubbish containing waste that you’ve touched, e.g. tissues, and keep it aside. You’ll be advised how to dispose of this separately by the NHS.
  • Regularly clean surfaces, such as table tops and door handles, with a bleach solution.
  • Wash laundry with detergent on the highest temperature advised for that fabric. Make sure to wash your hands afterwards.


  • Don’t share towels. This includes hand towels in other areas of the home such as the kitchen.
  • Try and limit the number of shared household items, this could include things like toiletries or devices.
  • Don’t have visitors over to the home, and if possible find somewhere else for vulnerable people to stay whilst you’re symptomatic and isolated.
  • Where possible, someone with coronavirus should use a separate bathroom. If that’s not possible, try to create a bathroom rota where you can use it last and clean it afterwards if you feel able to.

Follow this link for the government advice on what to do if you live in the same home as someone with COVID-19.

Follow the rules to save lives

Although some of the rules may seem harsh and restrictive, it’s vital that everyone follows them to help slow the spread of COVID-19 to protect the vulnerable and ensure hospitals don’t become overwhelmed.

For more help and guidance on understanding isolation, working at home and treating coronavirus visit

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