Self-isolation and coronavirus

If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), you will need to stay at home (self-isolate) for at least 7 days:

  • If you have the symptoms of coronavirus you must stay at home for 7 days. This applies to people who live alone or with others. If you feel better after 7 days and don’t have a temperature you can return to social distancing measures.
  • If you share a house with someone who has symptoms, you must stay at home for 14 days to avoid spreading the virus.
  • If within the 14 days you develop symptoms you must stay at home for 7 days starting from the day of the first symptoms. All people who do not have symptoms must isolate for the full 14 days.

Self isolation is not the same as social-distancing. You should avoid leaving your home at all, even to go to the shops.

We have separate shielding guidance for people who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of an underlying health condition such as cancer.  

It’s important to stay up-to-date with advice provided by the UK government and the NHS. Here are links to the latest information about staying at home:

We understand that self-isolation isn’t easy. This page has advice we hope will help. We’re also here if you want to talk to someone:

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation means staying at home to stop the spread of coronavirus, or to reduce your risk of contracting it. 

This means you shouldn’t:

  • go to work, school or public areas
  • use public transport or taxis
  • have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
  • go to buy food or collect medicine.

You are able to use your garden, if you have one. Please make sure you’re following the latest advice from GOV.UK.

Preparing for self-isolation

You might be feeling worried about self-isolating. Being prepared in case you do need to stay at home will hopefully help ease some of your concerns. We recommend that you:

  • Think about what you will need to be able to stay at home for the full 7 - 14 days.
  • Plan how you can get food and other supplies such as medications that you will need during this period.
  • Ask friends or family if they can drop off anything you need while you’re in home isolation.
  • Plan in advance what you will do if someone in your household has serious symptoms, such as having difficulties breathing.
  • Make sure deliveries and supplies are left outside your home for you to collect.

Getting food and medication during self-isolation

A big worry for people who need to stay at home is how to get vital supplies like food and medication. This is particularly worrying for people who do not have friends and family living locally, but there is support available.

Community hubs for people who are shielding

When the UK government made the announcement that people with certain medical conditions should shield for 12 weeks, they also announced community hubs were being set up. These would help to deliver food and medicine to people.

These are being organised by local councils. To find out what is happening in your community, get in touch with your local council.

Buying food from supermarkets

Most of the big supermarkets have put things in place to help people get their shopping. This includes making certain delivery slots and store opening hours available to vulnerable people only. You can find the latest updates on their websites:

When ordering online, say that you would like the order to be left outside your home for you to collect.

Getting your medication

If you’re worried about getting your medication, the best thing to do is contact your local council and ask about getting it delivered by your local community hub. 

There are also some pharmacies where you can sign up online to have your prescription delivered: 

  • Boots – we've worked with Boots to remove delivery fees for people living with cancer
  • Pharmacy2U
  • Well

Phone your local pharmacy and ask if they provide this service. Or ask at your GP surgery.

It’s important to keep taking your medicine as prescribed. You do not need to worry about shortages.

Always follow the advice of your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about how to get or take your medicines and medical products.

The NHS has ways of making sure people receive their medicines and medical products, even under difficult circumstances.

Staying in touch with family and friends

There are lots of ways you can stay in touch with the people who are important to you. 

It might help if you arrange a regular time to speak to the people closest to you on the phone. If it’s a few different people, try splitting those calls across your day to help break it up a bit.

If you have a smartphone, computer or tablet you can also video call people. Seeing someone’s face can help you feel connected. You could time those calls with something like your lunch or an afternoon cup of tea. Sharing these everyday moments with someone might help bring a bit of normality to your day.

We’re also here if you want to talk. Here are the different ways you can speak to someone:

Age UK also has a free telephone friendship service for people 60 and over. Find out more about it here.

Macmillan Telephone Buddies

Going through cancer can be an isolating experience at any time, and especially when social distancing. Our free Telephone Buddy service is here for you. We'll match you with someone who understands what you're going through, and they'll give you a weekly call.

More information and registration

Keeping active

It can be difficult to keep active when you can’t leave your home, but there are lots of great resources online to help you:

There is lots of other advice online to help you stay active while self-isolating. We recommend you taking some time to search online and find what works for you.

Looking after your mental well-being

You might be feeling more anxious than usual at the moment. That’s perfectly understandable. It’s really important that you take care of your mental well-being as well as your physical well-being.

Create a routine

Creating a daily routine can help you feel more in control. Try sticking to your regular daily routine. Waking up at your regular time, getting ready for the day, and going to bed at the same time as you usually would can help bring some normality to your day.

Eat healthily and stay active

Eating regularly and healthily and staying active really helps our mood and energy levels. We know it’s not easy when you’re at home and getting certain food is more difficult. We have detailed information about eating healthy and staying active while you’re isolating at home.

Take up a new hobby

It’s really important to keep yourself occupied. As well as your favourite hobbies, you might want to take up something new. Cooking, reading, online learning, puzzles, knitting, drawing, there are lots of things you could do from home.

Ask for support if you need it. Speak to your friends and family over the phone or on social media. You can also call the Macmillan Support Line or reach out to people on our Online Community.

There are also some great sources of support and information online that can help:

How we are supporting people with cancer

Coronavirus is having a huge impact on people living with cancer. From introducing new support services, delivered over the phone or online, to our nurses being redeployed to the areas of greatest need within the NHS, we are doing all we can to meet the growing demand on our services.

  • To keep everyone safe, we have stopped all our face-to-face volunteering. But if you need someone to talk to, you can sign up for our new Telephone Buddies service.
  • We can't run our Mobile Information and Support buses at the moment, so we've created a virtual version. You can now email our Mobile Information and Support staff. They can provide information about local services and support.
  • You can now make a virtual appointment with our No7 Boots Macmillan Beauty Advisors. They can give make-up and skincare advice to help you manage visible side effects of cancer treatment.
  • To help you stay fit and healthy during the coronavirus crisis, we've launched SafeFit. This is a free remote service that connects you with a cancer exercise specialist.

How you can help

Cancer nurses need urgent support

We need to be there for people living with cancer. But we can't do it alone. Your support has never mattered more. Find out more about how we're supporting people during the coronavirus outbreak, and how you can help us be there.

Read more about how we are supporting people with cancer

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.