COVID-19: investigation and initial clinical management of possible cases

Information on case definitions, and the initial assessment and investigation of possible cases of COVID-19 infection.


Flow chart for management of a possible case of COVID-19

This file may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.

Request an accessible format.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


These documents provide information relating to the initial investigation and management of possible cases of COVID-19.

There may be further information specific to each country in the United Kingdom, as this guidance was written by Public Health England primarily for an English health professional audience. To see if country specific information is available, please refer to Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales, or Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.

Please note that this guidance is of a general nature and that an employer should consider the specific conditions of each individual place of work and comply with all applicable legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Published 10 January 2020
Last updated 14 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. Updated self-isolation period.

  2. Updated self-isolation period to 10 days.

  3. Consolidated case definitions for inpatient and community settings into 1 list.

  4. Updated flowchart to reflect the extension of the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days.

  5. Updated information in section 3, with regards to 14-day self-isolation for admitted patients and provision of written information on ongoing isolation when discharging patients.

  6. Updated flowchart.

  7. Updated information on case definition.

  8. Removed link to withdrawn primary care guidance from the flowchart.

  9. Removed guidance on Priorities for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) testing.

  10. Updated information provided on local testing.

  11. Updated priorities for testing.

  12. Updated testing section.

  13. Added 'Priorities for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) testing'.

  14. Updated flowchart.

  15. Removed minimum dataset form. Added a note relating to testing inpatients.

  16. Revised case definitions.

  17. Removed flowchart.

  18. Updated clarification of case definition for ‘admission to hospital’ and ‘influenza like illness’.

  19. Revised case definitions and updated flowchart.

  20. Flow chart updated with MERS.

  21. Added consideration of MERS testing for relevant travellers.

  22. Updated specified countries and areas.

  23. Clarification of epidemiological criteria, and sampling and testing.

  24. Updated with new guidance on 'results of testing'.

  25. Updated flow chart.

  26. Updated flowchart.

  27. Updated flowchart for management of suspected cases.

  28. Addition to case definition.

  29. In addition to China, specified countries are Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. Flowchart also updated.

  30. Clarification of definition of mainland China.

  31. Updated definition of contact.

  32. Flowchart updated with '2019-nCoV' terminology

  33. Updated 'Results of testing' section.

  34. Added 'Minimum data set' form.

  35. Updated terminology for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and added flow chart.

  36. Update to case definitions and guidance for discharge.

  37. Updated advice and included link for who to call to request testing.

  38. Added information on management of confirmed cases in England.

  39. Updated with case definitions and guidance on sampling.

  40. First published.