Self-isolation rules for cases and people exposed to COVID-19

Self-isolate when you get a test, have COVID-19, arrive from overseas, are a household contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, or at high risk of getting COVID-19.

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Register a positive rapid antigen test result

Most people no longer need to get a PCR (nose and throat swab) test if they have COVID-19 symptoms or are a household, social, workplace or education contact of a positive case.

Anyone who tests positive with a rapid antigen test must:



Self-isolation means you must stay at your home or accommodation and remain separated from others. You can only leave to get medical care (such as a COVID-19 test) or in an emergency. You cannot have visitors. 

You must self-isolate for the amount of time you are told to. Your self-isolation period starts from the day you were tested or exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you have to self-isolate for 7 days, for example, and you were tested at 10am on Tuesday, your self-isolation period ends at 10am on the following Tuesday. You must follow any health advice provided about when you can leave self-isolation.

For more information about how to self-isolate you can read the NSW Health Self-Isolation Guidelines. 

People exposed to a COVID-19 case 

As the number of people with COVID-19 increases, NSW Health is focusing on contacting people at highest risk of contracting COVID-19. You may not receive a text message or call from NSW Health after being exposed to a person with COVID-19. 

If you are told by someone that you have been in contact with a person who has COVID-19, use the advice below to understand your risk and what you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community.

You are at risk of developing COVID-19 in the 14 days after you were last in contact with someone with the virus. Most people who develop COVID-19 will get it in the first 7 days – this is your highest risk period. However, around a quarter of cases will develop COVID-19 between day 7 and 14. This means there is ongoing risk during this time.

Finding out if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 

There are several ways you may find out you have been around someone with COVID-19. You may be told by a:

  • family member
  • friend
  • colleague
  • workplace or other organisation. 

What you need to do

You should assess your personal risk and circumstances. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • How much time did I spend with the COVID-19 positive person, and how closely did we interact? 
  • Did we spend time together outdoors or indoors?
  • Were we both wearing masks? Or just one of us, or neither of us? 
  • Do I live or work with any vulnerable people? If I developed COVID-19 would these people be at higher risk? 

Use the NSW Health advice for people exposed to COVID-19 to assess your risk.

Stay COVID Safe for the 14 day risk period 

Protect your friends, family and community:

  • Wear a face mask and follow physical distancing and hygiene rules.
  • Limit interactions with others, particularly vulnerable people.  
  • Avoid visiting high-risk settings like health care, aged care, disability care and correctional facilities.
  • If you must visit high risk settings or see vulnerable people, do a rapid antigen test before you go.

If you are a critical worker

Some critical workers who are close contacts are permitted to leave self-isolation to attend work, only if they have no COVID-19 symptoms.

Read the critical worker self-isolation guidance.

People with COVID-19 symptoms 

Do a rapid antigen test immediately if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if mild and even if you are fully or partially vaccinated.


After your test you should self-isolate at your home or accommodation until you receive a negative result, even if you are fully or partially vaccinated.  

Read the NSW Health advice on getting tested for COVID-19.

People who test positive to COVID-19

Finding out if you are a confirmed case of COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should follow the information for people testing positive to COVID-19. 

You should register your positive test result as soon as possible to connect you to the best care and recovery plan appropriate to you.

Self-managing COVID-19 at home

Most people can safely manage COVID-19 at home, with some simple advice.

Provided you have had 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccination, are aged under 65, do not suffer from chronic health conditions and are not pregnant you should be able to manage COVID-19 at home.

You must self-isolate.

What you need to do

Follow the NSW Health advice for people who test positive to COVID-19 and managing COVID-19 safely at home. This includes information on when you can leave self-isolation.

How to self-isolate safely at home

If you live with other people, you must remain separated from them during your self-isolation period.

This means:

  • stay and sleep in a separate room
  • use a separate bathroom if available, or clean a shared bathroom after use
  • do not be in the same room as another person, even if they are also in isolation
  • do not share household items including dishes, cups, towels and bedding - after using these items, wash them thoroughly with detergent and water.

Penalties for not self-isolating as directed

The self-isolation rules are enforceable under the Public Health (COVID-19 Self-Isolation) Order. If you are directed in writing (including SMS) by NSW Health to self isolate not following the rules is 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.

The NSW Police may also issue on-the-spot fines to individuals of:

  • $5000 for failure to comply with obligations to self-isolate if you are diagnosed with COVID-19, including staying at home or in hospital, as determined by a doctor, nurse or paramedic;  providing details of contact with other persons and places you have visited; and complying with NSW Health guidelines 
  • $5000 for failure to comply with obligations to self-isolate if you are a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19, including staying at home up to 10 days, as determined by a doctor, nurse or paramedic; submitting to testing for COVID-19; and complying with NSW Health guidelines.
  • For corporations on-the-spot fines of $10,000 apply for failure to comply with obligations relating to self-isolation. 

International passengers required to self-isolate

All passengers and flight crew arriving into NSW from overseas must follow the rules for international passengers into NSW.  

Only people who are not fully vaccinated arrivals need to enter hotel quarantine.

Fully vaccinated travellers who are not required to quarantine must have a rapid antigen test within the first 24 hours of arrival, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. They must have a second rapid antigen test on day 6. 

Related apps

Service NSW App

Service NSW

You can check in to COVID Safe businesses who are using their NSW Government QR Code, via the Service NSW app.


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