Revealed: You can still attend a funeral, go food shopping or take your pet to the vet EVEN if you’re self-isolating with Covid at Christmas (but only in an emergency)

  • People who are self-isolating are still leave home in very limited circumstances
  • You can attend funeral of ‘close family member’ such as your parents or children
  • People can also go food shopping or to vet’s, but only in emergency situations
  • Little-known exemptions apply to hundreds of thousands of self-isolating Britons

People who are self-isolating are still able to attend a funeral, go food shopping or even take their pet to the vet in limited circumstances under official legislation.

The little-known exemptions mean hundreds of thousands of Britons who may have thought they were unable to leave the house at all over Christmas can in fact do so.

The rules apply to anyone who is self-isolating by law – which includes those who have tested positive for Covid-19 or unvaccinated Britons who are close contacts.

They apply in the ‘Meaning of self-isolate’ section, also known as 2A, of the ‘Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020’.  

Other examples include going to court or taking part in legal proceedings when required – or accessing dentists, opticians or chiropractors in an emergency. 

But the UK Health Security Agency insists these are all ‘exceptional circumstances’, and you ‘should have considered all other options first’ before going out. 

Officials have added that if people have ‘no other options’ and have to go out, they should ‘think about how you can limit contact with other people’.

The self-isolation period for those who tested positive has been cut to a week in most cases

All those self-isolating can ‘attend a funeral of a close family member’, including your parents, siblings or children. It does not cover uncles, aunties, nieces or nephews.

A ‘close relative’ is defined in law under the The Social Fund Maternity and Funeral Expenses (General) Regulations 2005 as a ‘parent, parent-in-law, son, son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, step-parent, step-son, step-son-in-law, step-daughter, step-daughter-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, sister or sister-in-law’.

What are the reasons to legally leave the house while self-isolating? 

The exceptional circumstances where you may leave self-isolation are to:

  • post a PCR test or antibody test at a Royal Mail priority post box
  • attend (or accompany a child to) a COVID-19 testing site
  • take part in NHS COVID-19 research, but only if you are asked to leave self-isolation
  • agree to take part in a testing scheme where that agreement cannot be given from home
  • get urgent health services for you, your family and pets
  • avoid harm, for instance if there is a fire or you are at risk of domestic abuse
  • move to a different place when it becomes impractical to stay where you are, for instance, if your house has been damaged by a fire or flood
  • access critical public services, including social services, and to access services provided to victims of crime, for instance if there has been a burglary
  • help someone who is pregnant to go to a medical appointment, or to give birth
  • get food or medicine if you cannot order it online or by phone, or you cannot ask someone to bring it to your home
  • go to the funeral of a close family member
  • meet legal duties such as going to court, taking part in court proceedings, or following bail conditions

There are some exemptions that do not apply if you have tested positive for Covid, and are therefore only for unvaccinated people who have been a close contact. These are to:

  • take part in NHS COVID-19 research
  • help someone who is pregnant to go to a medical appointment, or to give birth

The rules also give self-isolating Britons a right to ‘obtain basic necessities, such as food and medical supplies for those in the same household (including any pets or animals in the household) where it is not possible to obtain these provisions in any other manner’.

This means you could not simply go out to buy food shopping if you are able to order it online or get a friend or neighbour to deliver it – so this would only apply in very limited circumstances. 

You also have the chance to ‘access veterinary services, where this is required urgently or on the advice of a veterinary surgeon’, effectively meaning you could take your pet for medical treatment at the vet in an emergency situation.   

Furthermore, self-isolating Britons are allowed to leave their home to ‘seek medical assistance, where this is required urgently or on the advice of a registered medical practitioner’.

This includes accessing ‘services from dentists, opticians, audiologists, chiropodists, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health practitioners, or services relating to mental health’.

Another exemption is that you can leave home ‘to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court or satisfying bail conditions, or participating in legal proceedings’.

Self-isolating Britons can also flee ‘to escape a risk of harm’ – an exemption to help those suffering domestic abuse.

They can also leave home to ‘access critical public services, including social services, and services provided to victims (such as victims of crime)’.

Other exemptions allow people to ‘move to a different place specified in paragraph 1a, where it becomes impracticable to remain at the place at which they are’.

These locations listed in the law under ‘1a’ are your home, the home of a friend or family member; bed and breakfast accommodation; accommodation ‘provided or arranged under section 4, 95 or 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999’, or ‘another suitable place’. 

Other exemptions include going to an official coronavirus testing site, or accompanying a child to this location so they can take a test.

You can also leave home to post a completed Covid-19 home test carried out by yourself or anyone else living in the same household. 

And you can agree to participate in a testing scheme ‘where that agreement cannot be given from the place’ where you are self-isolating. 

There are also a number of further limited exemptions which do not apply if you have tested positive for Covid, and are therefore only for unvaccinated people who have been a close contact, who must still self-isolate under law. 


One of these is that you can accompany ‘an expectant mother to any medical appointment related to the pregnancy throughout the antenatal period’, at that mother’s request.

How long do you have to self-isolate for if you test positive for Covid? 

The self-isolation period for people who have tested positive for coronavirus has been cut to a week in most cases.  

From yesterday, people in England who receive negative lateral flow results on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

This applies to members of the general public who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The Government intends to amend the current coronavirus regulations to reflect the new guidance when Parliament returns.

Until then, people who follow the new guidance will be regarded as having a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to complete the full self-isolation period. 

‘The antenatal period’ is defined within the law as the ‘period beginning with the start of the pregnancy and ending with the onset of labour’. 

Self-isolating people who have not tested positive for Covid – ie only unvaccinated close contacts – can also attend ‘an expectant mother giving birth’, again at the expectant mother’s request.

People within this bracket can also take part in ‘NHS Covid-19 research’.

The UKHSA says in its guidance: ‘In exceptional circumstances, you may need to temporarily leave self-isolation. You should have considered all other options first.’

It continues: ‘If you have no other options, you should think about how you can limit contact with other people.’

It adds that there is support for people who are self-isolating available through local authorities if you cannot rely on help from family, friends and neighbours. 

The details have emerged as more than 280,000 people infected with the virus, who were facing Christmas alone, can now safely enjoy festivities with their families after a change in isolation rules.

Health chiefs yesterday announced those who test positive for Covid can be released after seven days, rather than 10, providing they take two lateral flow tests at the end of that period.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said infected patients can take the tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their isolation period, which if negative means they can stop quarantining.

This means the 102,875 people who tested positive on December 15, the 95,058 positive cases the following day, and a further 82,945 people who contracted the virus on December 17, will be free to enjoy Christmas together with loved ones under the new rules.

It has also been hailed as a major boost to the NHS, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid reportedly among those concerned at the number of staff who have been off work with the virus under the 10-day rule. 

However, unvaccinated adults who have come into contact with someone infected with Covid must still self-isolate until 10 days after their estimated date of exposure to the virus. 

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