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Close contacts

A close contact is generally someone who has been near a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes when health and safety measures were not in place or were insufficient. This includes up to two days before someone develops symptoms. 

Last updated: July 16, 2021


Key Points

  • Being a close contact with a person who has COVID-19 can occur in different settings and depends on different situations such as how long you were together, how close you were, what happened during the interaction, if protective measures such as physical distancing were followed, or in other special circumstances
  • If you are identified by public health as a close contact, you need to self-monitor for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 for 14 days after being exposed to COVID-19. Contacts need to get tested if they develop any COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • Some close contacts also need to self-isolate. If you have already had COVID-19 or if you have been partially or fully immunized, you may not need to self-isolate. Public health will help you decide which steps to take based on how you were exposed to COVID-19, the dates of your first and second dose of vaccine, or when you recovered from COVID-19.

Who is considered a “close contact” of a person with COVID-19?

A close contact is generally someone who has been near a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes when health and safety measures were not in place or were insufficient. Health and safety measures include things such as physical barriers or physical distancing of at least 2 metres. If you are wearing a non-medical mask, you may still be considered a close contact. Some interactions that are less than 15 minutes can also be considered close contact. 

Close contact can occur when people have intimate contact, share a room, a house or a workplace, or are in a crowded place where health and safety measures aren’t always being used. You can also be considered a close contact if someone with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs on you. In other situations public health will need to assess what happened, and decide if someone is a close contact.

You may be a close contact even if you interacted with a person up to 2 days before they showed symptoms.  

Some people are asymptomatic and still test positive.  You may also be a close contact if you were around them up to 2 days before their positive test.

If public health decides you are a close contact, you have to follow their advice.

What should I do if I am a close contact of someone with COVID-19 and told by Public Health to self-isolate?

If you are a close contact of a person who has COVID-19, you need to:
  1. Monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days: See the symptoms page for the most up-to-date information about which symptoms are associated with COVID-19.
  2. Self-Isolate for 10 days: Self-isolation is important to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 to others. See the self-isolation page for details about how long you will need to self-isolate and tips on how to self-isolate safely. Self-isolation is not required if you are fully vaccinated or had COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days. Public health will help you decide which steps to take

Should I get tested if I am a close contact of someone with COVID-19?

If you are not showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you do not need to be tested, unless you are asked to by Public Health. It can take several days from the last time you were exposed to someone who has COVID-19 for symptoms to develop or to have enough virus in your body for a test to detect COVID-19. 

If you get symptoms, you will likely need to get tested. Go to the testing page for more information.

Not sure if you should be tested? Complete the BC COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool

Do I still need to self-isolate for 10 days if I get tested and my test comes back negative?

Yes, if you are tested for COVID-19 and the result is negative, you will need to continue to self-isolate for the full 10 days. There may not have been enough virus in your body to be detected and show a positive test result. This is why is it very important to self-isolate for the entire 10 days and watch for symptoms for 14 days.

What do I do if I live with someone who has COVID-19?

If you live with someone who has COVID-19, read about caring for someone with COVID-19 to learn about what you should do to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Our cleaning and disinfecting document has detailed information on how to prevent the spread of illness, including COVID-19, while keeping you safe from harsh chemicals and/or chemicals that are not effective.

What do I do if I live with someone who is a close contact?

If you live with someone who is a close contact, there are steps you can take to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 to others in case this person gets sick with COVID-19. You may want to limit your contact with people who have a greater chance of getting very sick from COVID-19 such as older people and people with some chronic diseases. 

Consider cleaning and disinfecting your home more often – the cleaning and disinfecting page has detailed information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while keeping you safe from harsh chemicals and/or chemicals that are not effective.


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