Understanding Quarantine and Isolation


  1. Quarantine: is the public health measure whereby someone who has come into contact with an infected individual has to separate himself/herself from any other person, as they could have picked up infection from that contact. The period of quarantine is determined by the incubation period of the infection (i.e. the period of time from contact to when they would have started to become ill) + the normal duration of the illness. In the case of COVID-19 the quarantine period is 14 days after date of contact.
  2. Isolation: is the public health measure whereby an infected person needs to be separated from any other individual to prevent transmission of the infection.
    1. Individuals ill with symptoms: The normal duration of uncomplicated illness for COVID-19 is 10 days (in illnesses with complications this quarantine period may be correspondingly longer); an additional three clear days are added on as a precaution to make a total of 13 days for isolation after the date of onset of symptoms.
    2. Asymptomatic individuals who test positive. Isolation would be required for 14 days from the date when the specimen was taken (not the date of the test result). If symptoms do subsequently develop isolation would need to be extended for a further 13 days following onset of symptoms. NB: There is no need for retesting before that person can come out of isolation and return to work etc.
  3. Self isolation; is a rather loosely used term but has generally come to mean a synonym for quarantine
  4. The current CDC list of symptoms suggestive of Covid 19:
    • Temperature above 38°C (100.4°F)
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Muscle pains
    • Fatigue
    • Chills
    • Headache
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhoea

NB: Minor symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, headache, mild cough, mild sore throat, in the absence of a temperature, are far more likely to be due to a cold or flu, especially in the present winter season.

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