• A close contact is someone who has been near enough to a person with COVID-19 while they were infectious that there is a reasonable chance they will be infected with COVID-19.
  • If you have been identified as a close contact of a person with COVID-19 you need to isolate in your home or another suitable place of residence. You must also get tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible, even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • People living in the same household as an identified close contact will also need to self- isolate until the close contact receives a negative test result.
  • Self-isolation for close contacts is enforceable under the Public Health Order.
  • This fact sheet contains additional information to the NSW Health Self-Isolation Guideline.
Last updated: 25 January 2021
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Do I need to self-isolate and for how long?

All close contacts need to self-isolate, even if you currently feel well.

You must isolate for 14 days after you last had contact with the infectious person.

You will be told how long you need to isolate in writing by an authorised contact tracer (this may be in the form of a text message). You may also receive a video call from an authorised contact tracer.

You must tell the contact tracer of the place you will be self-isolating and provide a contact phone number.

An authorised contact tracer is a NSW Health worker who investigates COVID-19 to identify and follow up people who have had contact with someone with COVID-19.

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19?

All close contacts must get tested as soon as possible, even if you don’t have symptoms.

To get tested:

You must not travel by public transport or ride-share. Wear a face mask and tell staff immediately that you are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

If you test negative, you still need to remain in isolation until the isolation period finishes. This is because it can take up to 14 days for you to show symptoms (physical signs in your body showing you may have COVID-19) or test positive without symptoms.

If you develop symptoms at any stage of your self-isolation period, you will need to be tested again.
Regardless of any symptoms or past tests you will also be required to have another test on day 12 of your isolation period.

How do I self-isolate?

  • Go directly to the place where you will self-isolate (home, hotel or other accommodation)
  • Do not leave, unless for urgent medical care or in an emergency (including to avoid injury or escape risk of harm from domestic violence). If you leave home for these reasons you must wear a face mask, stay 1.5m away from anyone else, and travel directly to and from the location back to your home, accommodation or alternative accommodation in the case of an emergency.
  • Do not go to work, school, childcare or public areas and do not use public transport or ride share
  • Do not have visitors
  • You can go into your private garden, balcony or courtyard if you have one
  • Practice good hygiene:
    • Cover coughs and sneezes
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Wash your hands:
      • before entering an area where there are other people
      • before touching things used by other people
      • after using the bathroom
      • after coughing or sneezing
      • before putting on, and after removing, gloves and masks.
    • Clean all surfaces you touch often (counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) at least once a day wearing disposable gloves. After cleaning apply a household disinfectant or diluted bleach solution.
  • Ask your family, friends to pick up groceries and medicines for you or order online or by telephone. If you still need help with obtaining food and essential supplies, call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

What if I’m notified as a close contact and I’m away from home?

If you have been identified as a close contact by an authorised contact tracer and you’re away from home, go to a COVID-19 clinic or GP close to where you’re staying to get tested and then self-isolate for 14 days after you last had contact with the infectious person. If you are in accommodation where you cannot stay for the complete isolation period, contact your Public Health Unit for assistance in finding alternative accommodation.

You are not permitted to travel home until your isolation period is completed.

What if I live with other people?

Initially people sharing a house with you will also need to self-isolate until you receive your first negative test result. People who work in high risk settings (e.g. settings such as aged care facilities, military facilities, residential disability facilities or day programs, boarding schools, boarding houses, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, remote industrial sites with accommodation, migrant workers accommodation, remote communities, abattoirs) must isolate from the contact and not attend high risk settings until effective isolation is achieved. Refer to the advice for households where people work in high risk settings.

At all times if you live with other people you will need to:

  • remain separated
  • stay and sleep in a different room
  • use a separate bathroom, if available (otherwise clean it after every use)
  • wear a mask when you are in the same room as another person (even if they are also in isolation)
  • not share household items including dishes, cups, towels, bedding, or other items. After using these items, you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water or use a dishwasher/washing machine
  • avoid shared areas and wear a mask when moving through these areas
  • not be in a room with people who are at risk of severe disease, such as elderly people, immunocompromised people, and those who have heart, lung or kidney conditions, and diabetes.

If you are unable to effectively self-isolate from household members speak to your Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055 about alternative accommodation.

What if my child has symptoms or needs to isolate?

If your child has symptoms or needs to isolate, refer to the advice for parents and carers.

What if I develop COVID-19 symptoms or feel unwell during self-isolation?

If you develop symptoms at any point during self-isolation, get tested immediately. You must not travel by public transport or ride-share. Wear a face mask and tell staff immediately that you are a close contact of a person with COVID-19.

Symptoms you should watch carefully for are:

  • fever (37.5°C or higher) or history of fever (night sweats, chills)
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • sore throat
  • loss of smell
  • loss of taste

Other symptoms of COVID-19 can include an acute blocked nose (congestion), fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, diarrhoea, nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, unexplained chest pain and conjunctivitis.

If you become severely unwell and it is a medical emergency, you should phone Triple Zero (000). Tell the ambulance staff that you are a close contact of someone with COVID-19.

How do I cope with self-isolation?

  • Talk to the other members of the family about COVID-19 to reduce anxiety. You can find accurate, up to date information at COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions.
  • Reassure young children using age-appropriate language.
  • Keep up a normal daily routine as much as possible.
  • Keep in touch with family members and friends via phone email or social media.
  • Exercise regularly at home. Options could include exercise DVDs, dancing, floor exercises, yoga, walking around the backyard or using home exercise equipment, such as a stationary bicycle if you have one. Exercise is a proven treatment for stress and depression.
  • Arrange with your employer to work from home, if possible.
  • Think about how you have coped with difficult situations in the past and reassure yourself that you will cope with this situation too. Remember that self-isolation won’t last for long.

When can I leave self-isolation?

You can leave self-isolation once you have completed the 14-day isolation period, have received a negative test result from your day 12 test, are symptom free and are contacted by an authorised contact tracer.

If you have a pre-existing illness with chronic respiratory signs or symptoms, such as chronic cough, speak to the doctor who has been treating you to decide whether the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 have resolved.

If you are unsure if you can leave isolation, call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

What happens if I don't follow self-isolation rules?

Not following these guidelines puts family, friends and the community at risk. Not following these rules is also a criminal offence and attracts heavy penalties. For individuals, the maximum penalty is $11,000, 6 months in prison, or both with a further $5,500 fine for each day the offence continues.

What happens after I leave self-isolation?

You can return to daily activities including catching public transport, going to work and seeing friends and family.

You should continue to practice good hygiene and physical distancing to reduce the spread of all contagious diseases:

  • stay 1.5 metres away from people you don’t live with
  • wash your hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • avoid touching your face, especially your eyes and mouth
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing.

If you develop symptoms at any point after your isolation period, get tested immediately.

More information and support

Financial support for individuals and households

If you’re affected by COVID-19 and experiencing financial difficulty, please visit the NSW Government website for information on what financial support is available.

For more information and support while in home isolation:

Translated fact sheets

Current as at: Monday 25 January 2021
Contact page owner: Health Protection NSW