Understanding the difference between ‘Quarantine’ and ‘Self-isolation’

Nowadays one can hardly spend a day without reading or hearing words “quarantine” and “self-isolation”. On social media some people are also using both of these terms as interchangable but this is a mistake. In fact, there is a difference between “quarantine” and “self-isolation” despite that their aim is to contain the spread of coronavirus infection. To get a full understanding of the two terms we’ve studies reliable sources and opinions of professionals on the subject. And now we are ready to share with you and put a stop to mixing up “quarantine” and “self-isolation”.


To study the meaning of the terms we’ve resorted to two source: a dictionary and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, an operating component of the Department of Health and Human Services in the USA).

According to the dictionary self-isolation is not mentioned to be related to any disease while quarantine is. The next resource which is a government body is more exact and describes the difference netween the terms more clearly. Here is how CDC defines “quarantine” and “isolation”.


separates and restricts the movement of people ever exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.


separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Therefore, we can define that self-isolation is a measure when sick people separate themselves (volunteerly or on medical demand) from others.

Who is subject to “quarantine” and “self-isolation”

Who is subject to "quarantine" and "self-isolation"


You have no symptoms but within the last 14 days:

  • you’ve visited a country with confirmed disease cases;
  • you think you might have had a contact with a person with symptoms but you are not sure.


You are suffering from symptoms of COVID-19 or:

  • you’ve got positive test result and are suffering from a mild form of the disease*.
  • you know for sure that you’ve had a long close contact with a COVID-19 positive patient without any protection.

*The decision on a patient’s self-isolation is made by a doctor. If the doctor considers that you can be treated in self-isolated place without being admitting to hospital, please, strictly follow all the recommendations and instructions. If you cannot self-isolate yourself at home, inform your local authorities on your condition. In some countries governments are ready to provide individual accomodations to COVID-19 patients.

Duration of quarantine vs. self-isolation


  • 14 days as it is a maximum incubation period of coronavirus (COVID-19).


  • at least 7 days and untill you get your tests resulting COVID-19 negative;
  • untill full recovery** if you were diagnosed with the new virus infection.

**The average time of recovery is 10 days. You are fully recovered after 72 hours without fever and  two tests with negative results. Both tests are conducted with a 24-hour gap between them.

Personal contact during quarantine and self-isolation



  • only digital communication on social media and messengers are the ways you can reach other people. Forget about direct contact especially if you have elder family members living with you. Your room becomes your entire world and you are the only its citizen.

While being self-isolated or quarantined you must not go outside your room where you should stay alone all the time. Your family members may help you to proide you with food and drinks. It is recommended to use one-time plates, cutlery and glasses so after every meal they can be disposed. If you are staying alone use contactless food or meal delivery services that will drop your purchases near your door. Pay online.

Here you can get a comprehensive poster by Insider on the difference between self-isolation, quarantine and self-isolation.

Unicef has also designed a poster on the same.

Why staying home when all the infected and potentially infected people are quarantined or self-isolated

Besides the two measures of  “quarantine” and “self-isolation” most of the countries  are practising lockdown. This measure prevents healthy people from outside ventures ceasing human contact, eliminating crowd gathering and, thus, minimizes the chance of catching infection. That is why governments of many countries (if not all) cancelled or postponed all entertainment and sport events, closed trading centers, malls, restaurants and other public places, recommended businesses and offices to switch to a “work-from-home” mode. Countries worldwide went on quarantine. They stopped international flights and closed their borders.

So how do empty streets help to fight the novel coronavirus?

Firt of all, some people who go outside may not know that they are bearers of the virus and it is developing regardless the absence of symptoms. During the incubation period of the coronavirus infected people already can transmit the virus to others. Sneezing and coughing in public are the most common ways to spread COVID-19.

Secondly, the droplets from sneezing and coughing containing the virus  loudge on different surfaces. Coronavirus lifespan on different surfaces may last upto several days. While going outside and touching such a surface by chance you put yourself at risk. And you may bring the virus home. So , remember to wsh hands frequently and always carry a hand sanitizer with you.

Staying home is a part of social distancing and is a preventive measure to keep you safe. It is for those who are not yet in a direct danger of catching coronavirus. Rules allow such people to go outside but only when they really need it. Among such cases are going out to:

  • buy food;
  • get medical care;
  • walk a pet.

“Staying home” measure does not limit your circle of communication but for your own safety and the safety of others keep in touch only with your household members as you may  not know where your neighbours or other people go and with whom they might be in direct contact. Shift your communication with the rest of the world to the digital level. By this you will help yourself, your government, your neighbourhood and your country to fight against the coronavirus.