COVID-19: What you need for two weeks of self-isolation
Updated 22:38, 05-Mar-2020
Giulia Carbonaro

If you have traveled to one of the areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, or you've been in contact with people who have tested positive for the virus, you might be asked to voluntarily put yourself through two weeks of self-isolation to help contain contagion.

While at first 14 days of calm and rest at home may sound appealing, solitude and isolation can become a problem. So, be prepared and make sure that, should it happen, it turns out to be a pleasant break from the world – with the added value of doing something good for wider society.


What does it mean to self-isolate?

Self-isolation for COVID-19 should respect a period of 14 days. During these two weeks, you should avoid going to work, school, or public places – including using public transport.

If you share a house with other people, you should avoid the common areas as much as possible when others are in them and wear a face mask when accessing them, clean every shared space and surface regularly, keep the house ventilated, and possibly use another toilet and bathroom.

You should avoid contact with the people you live with, including – prepare to be heartbroken – your pets.


Make sure you have enough food and toiletries for two weeks

First of all, don't panic: you don't need to empty the supermarket and stockpile food. Provisions will be available and if you pre-emptively buy huge stocks of canned food and pasta now, you might just find yourself with less money and more food than you can eat.

Buy a reasonable amount of non-perishable food (pasta, grains, seeds, canned beans or fish, non-dairy milk, frozen vegetables), and you can always keep it for a rainy day if you don't end up consuming it. 

Meal planning has become a popular trend, with all the claimed benefits of saving money, avoiding food waste, and eating healthier. So, you can give it a try for 14-days.

Avoid going to the supermarket and other places where people gather. If you have someone who's willing to help out, ask them to buy you some groceries and the food you might need for a few days.

If you get a craving for some indulgent food and you're tired of cooking, you can still get food delivered to your home, as long as you keep your distance and wear a face mask when taking your order.

If you're taking care of someone else, an elderly relative or your children, make sure they have all they need and they're aware of the best practices to avoid contagion.


Health care

If you're taking medication, make sure you order a monthly supply. If you can't do that in advance, make sure there will be someone available to pick up your prescription medicine for you, should you be in self-isolation.

If you have discussed a medical appointment with your doctor or a hospital, make sure to ask for their advice on the best way to proceed.


Working from home

Obviously what you're going to need to be able to efficiently work from home varies according to what job you do and for some professions this isn't an option. But most of the people who work in offices will be able to get away with having a good Wi-Fi connection and a working laptop.

Many people affected by the outbreak have had to cancel business trips and meetings, but in some cases audio, video or conference calls can take their place.

You will still be able to text and call your colleagues, but you might find this can't replace a casual chat over the coffee machine. Remember to feel grateful of their presence once you're allowed back in the office. 



One of the most difficult things to deal with while self-isolating, according to those who have been and are going through it, is boredom.

Make sure you keep yourself busy and entertained. Take on a hobby, put your heart into cooking new recipes, keep in touch with friends and family.

Go through the list of Netflix (or a similar streaming service) TV shows and films your friends and colleagues suggest you watch, so when you are able to meet up with them again you'll have something to talk about that goes beyond your quarantine (because, honestly, you won't have much to account for it).

Never having time to read seems to be a collective problem, so here's your chance. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has reported that two masterpieces of literature have seen a huge increase in sales in the coronavirus-stricken country: Blindness by José Saramago and The Plague by Albert Camus.

The novels both talk about the (terrible) ways the fear of an epidemic can make people act. Give them a read and you'll have the chance to ponder the current situation through the brilliant minds of some of the world's finest writers. 

It will make you more wary of possible cases of mass hysteria and more critical about the misinformation circulated around the virus.