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Isolation if you've been screened for Coronavirus and tested positive for IGM antibodies

​Who is this guidance for?

This guidance only applies to those who have recently been screened for coronavirus antibodies and have received a result of IgM or IgM & IgG positive (including householders of the person with this result).

If you have not been screened for antibodies, but you:

For more information about the antibody testing programme see the Covid-19 testing programme page.

What happens if I test positive for IgM antibodies?


The COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test identifies whether the person is either positive or negative for two antibodies: Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG).

If your result shows that IgM antibodies have been detected (either as IgM on its own, or with IgG), this suggests that you are likely to be contagious and could pass on coronavirus to others. It also means that your exposure to the virus was likely to be more than 7 days ago (and therefore the duration that you and householders are required to isolate for may be shorter than 14 days, as would be required in other circumstances)

Once the IgM presence has been confirmed, you will have been advised by the person who administered the test that this is the case. You will then discuss if and for how long you and your householders may need to isolate for due to this positive result. You will also discuss whether you need to be offered a PCR (Polymerise Chain Reaction) swab to confirm the coronavirus diagnosis: 

  • if you have previously had symptoms of coronavirus and have now been symptom-free for more than 2 days and your symptoms started more than 7 days ago, there is no need for you to self-isolate or to have a PCR swab. HOWEVER the other members of your household should now isolate for a total of 14 days, backdated to the first day of YOUR symptoms (in this case, you should be following the symptomatic household guidance)
  • if you have previously had symptoms and the total duration of your symptoms plus symptom-free days is less than 7 days, you will be offered a PCR swab test on site before you leave. You and your household must self-isolate until your PCR test result is known
  • if you have not previously experienced symptoms of COVID-19 infection, you may be contagious and will be offered a PCR swab test before you leave the testing centre. You and your household must self-isolate until your PCR test result is known
  • if you have had a PCR swab taken, you and any householders must continue to isolate (as advised) until you receive your PCR result. We will aim to provide you with your PCR swab result within 48 hours of it being taken
  • if your PCR test result is positive, you and your household need to self-isolate for a total of 7 days, starting on the date of your PCR swab. The Contact Tracing Team will then interview you to identify any direct contacts you have had whilst infectious, so they can be supported too
  • if your PCR test result is negative, you can stop self-isolating straight away. HOWEVER the other members of your household will need to remain in isolation for a total of 7 days, starting on the date of your PCR swab

If you or anyone you live with develops new symptoms during your isolation period, you must call the coronavirus helpline +44 (0) 1534 445566. 

What does it mean if you and your household need to isolate because you have tested positive for IgM antibodies and have subsequently tested positive for coronavirus following a PCR Swab?

You and your household need to isolate for a period of 7 days. If you live with others, the person who has IgM antibodies and has tested positive following a PCR swab needs to isolate in a part of the house that is as separate from everyone else, ideally in a different room.

This also means:

  • where possible, do not share bathrooms or kitchen space. If this is not possible, try to use a rota and ensure touch points are cleaned frequently and between uses.
  • eating meals in isolated rooms and not socialising with other members of the household.

If more than one person has IgM antibodies and has tested positive following a PCR swab, those who are positive may continue to share facilities together, but must remain separate from anyone else who has not tested positive.

There is a high risk that people living within the household of someone who has tested positive will infect each other – you may have already been infected or may currently be infected.

The whole household staying at home for a minimum of 7 days or until the infection has passed will significantly reduce the overall amount of infection that the individual or household could pass on to others in the community. The duration of isolation is shorter than the 14 days that a household normally has to isolate for (when there are no IgM antibodies confirmed) because your exposure was likely to be 7 or more days ago already. 

Whilst you and your household are in isolation because of a PCR test-confirmed case, do not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis or go outside to exercise. You should not go out even to buy food or other essentials

If someone in your household develops new coronavirus symptoms during the 7 day isolation period, you must call the coronavirus helpline. The person with new symptoms will need to remain in isolation until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared (or have substantially improved and they do not have a fever) for a minimum of 7 days after the onset of their symptoms. The rest of the household do not need to re-start their isolation period unless they too start to show symptoms.

We understand this can be a challenging. Help and support is available to you through the ConnectMe service or by calling the helpline: +44 (0) 1534 445566.

Other important principles to follow:

  • as a priority, you need to protect and shield the most vulnerable from the risk of infection.
  • if you can, move any extremely vulnerable individuals (find out who is considered extremely vulnerable) out of your home, to stay with friends or family for the duration of the home isolation period 
  • if you cannot move an extremely vulnerable person out of your home, stay away from them as much as possible – if you have enough room for the vulnerable person to self-isolate, then they should do so.
  • you should also be extra vigilant to keep distance between you and any other vulnerable people who are aged over 65 and/or have other underlying health conditions
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water.
  • regularly clean all touch points and surfaces in your home.
  • if you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then contact your GP for advice – make sure you do not visit without calling ahead first. In the case of a medical emergency, dial 999.

After your minimum isolation period, you can leave your home so long as you continue to follow the latest Public Health advice, which includes continuing to practice physical distancing when outside the home. 

You do not need a clearance test in order to end isolation once you have completed your isolation period.

If you start to show symptoms after you have ended your isolation period, you must restart your isolation period again and call the Helpline: +44 (0) 1534 445566

What does it mean if your household needs to isolate because you have tested positive for IgM antibodies and have subsequently tested negative for coronavirus following a PCR Swab?

If you have IgM antibodies but have subsequently tested negative for coronavirus following a PCR swab, this means you are not likely to be infectious anymore and you are no longer required to isolate. However, this does not mean that members of your household are not infectious or at the point of becoming infectious because of recent exposure to the virus.

From the date your PCR swab was taken, members of your household need to isolate at home for a period of 7 days. If no one is showing symptoms, you do not need to isolate in separate rooms, but you should remain at home. 

This means that they must not go to work, school, or public areas, and do not use public transport or taxis or go outside to exercise (unless this can be done on your own property and away from others). They should not go out even to buy food or other essentials you or the householder who tested negative however, can do these things.

If someone in your household develops new coronavirus symptoms during the 7 day isolation period, you must call the coronavirus helpline. The person with new symptoms will need to remain in isolation until 48 hours after symptoms have cleared (or have substantially improved and do not have a fever) for a minimum of 7 days after the onset of their symptoms .  The rest of the household do not need to re-start their isolation period unless they too start to show symptoms.

We understand this can be a challenging. Help and support is available to you through the ConnectMe service or by calling the helpline: +44 (0) 1534 445566.

  • you should also be extra vigilant to keep distance between you and any vulnerable people who are aged over 65 and/or have other underlying health conditions
  • wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water.
  • regularly clean all touch points and surfaces in your home.
  • if you develop symptoms and feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, or your condition gets worse, or your symptoms do not get better after 7 days, then contact your GP for advice – make sure you do not visit without calling ahead first. In the case of a medical emergency, dial 999.

Exemptions from this guidance for IgM antibodies with PCR test 

None.

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