How to Prepare for a Coronavirus Pandemic (Including a Shopping List)

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In the past week, the news has been dominated about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its spread around the world. There are more than 1000 documented cases in Australia with more predicted to come. Here’s how to educate yourself and your family as well as having a plan to stay at home if the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and significant disruptions occur.

Already, we’ve seen schools shut down, people stockpiling food and groceries, communities quarantined and employees asked to work from home. There’s no need to panic but if you’re cautious by nature or just like to be organised, here are some ways to prepare for an outbreak. For those concerned, see below for a comprehensive pandemic shopping list of items to buy if you want to stock your pantry and do some coronavirus prepping. If it turns out that the coronavirus pandemic isn’t as bad it as predicted, you’ll have just extra supplies courtesy of a coronavirus shopping list.

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. Some coronaviruses can cause an illness similar to the common cold and others can cause more serious diseases, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). This new novel coronavirus originated in Hubei Province, China and the disease outbreak is named COVID-19.

Stay informed about coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Go to reputable websites and read accurate information about coronavirus. There are many coronavirus myths out there. Find out the truth. Here’s information about the COVID-19 from the Australian Government Department of Health, World Health Organisation, US Centre for Disease Control and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
  • The Australian Government has set up a Coronavirus Health Information Line (1800 020 080). Call this line if you are seeking information on novel coronavirus. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • If you develop flu-like symptoms, call your General Practitioner, Emergency Department or healthdirect Australia (1800 022 222). Call first so they can prepare for your visit.

Practice good hygiene & health habits to reduce the risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Get kids to sing Happy Birthday twice while they wash their hands to make sure they are washing them for long enough.
  • Ensure family members are regularly washing their hands especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If you’re using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, makes sure they are at least 60 percent alcohol and rubbed in for at least 20 seconds as well.
  • Clean common surfaces like doorknobs, counters and bathroom fixtures, phones, keyboards, tablets at least once a day.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as you spread germs from your hands that way.
  • If you cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow or a tissue and then dispose of the tissue.
  • NSW Health has advised that face masks are not recommended for the general population. People who have symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical face mask when in the same room as another person and when seeking medical advice to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to anyone else.

Maintain social distancing

  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Minimise shaking hands or kissing friends to reduce the risk of contracting germs.
  • If you want to cut back on going out, here are some ideas for social distancing family fun you can do at home.

Be prepared to stay home at short notice

  • Find out from your employer about your company’s work-from-home and sick leave policy in the event of an outbreak.
  • Check with your childcare or school about how much advance notice there might be before a school closure. Make a plan for how you will look after your kids if schools and child care centres are suddenly closed. For a full list of kids activities you can do at home, check out our what to do in the event of a school shutdown due to coronavirus article. Consider alternating childcare with a friend or family member in their home or yours (as long as everyone is healthy).
  • Large public gatherings are being cancelled including concerts, sports events, religious services and public events in response to government social distancing directives. Keep up with local announcements to find out about those cancellations.
  • Scale back on social engagements. To flatten the curve of community transmission of coronavirus, reduce your social outings.
  • Postpone or delay travel plans. Airlines have made significant cuts to domestic and international travel. Check with your travel agent, airline or hotel to check refund or credit policy.
  • Prepare for how to care for those who have a greater risk of serious illness and hospitalization, such as those over 65 years old and those with pre-existing health conditions. Consider social distancing from them to protect them from the spread of coronavirus. Here are tips to keep in touch with grandparents and elderly relatives while practicing social distancing. Also, have a backup plan for who will care for your kids if you come down with the coronavirus.

Pandemic shopping list

Stock up on essentials with a minimum 14 day supply of food just in case. In case of a mandated quarantine or if you just want to avoid sick people in your community, start stocking up on supplies from the following coronavirus shopping list. You don’t need to panic buy but just add a few items to your weekly shop. You likely have a lot of non-perishable items in your pantry already. Just identify what you currently have and what you should stock up on.

Here’s a list of items you might want to stock up on:

  • Long-life milk or milk powder
  • Long-life cheese
  • Flour
  • Vegemite, jams, jellies or peanut butter
  • Chips and crackers
  • Rice crackers
  • Jars of salsa or pesto
  • Biscuits (cookies)
  • Nut and trail mix
  • Breakfast cereals and granola
  • Pasta and rice
  • Pasta sauce
  • Instant noodles
  • Soup mix
  • Sugar or honey
  • Pancake mix
  • Dried spices
  • Olive oil
  • Dried beans/lentils
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Granola and snack bars
  • Canned salmon, chicken and tuna
  • Baked beans
  • Canned spaghetti
  • Canned soups
  • Canned vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, corn, beetroot, etc.
  • Long lasting fresh fruit and vegetables like carrots, onions, apples and potatoes.
  • Cans of coconut milk or coconut cream
  • Canned fruit like peaches, pineapple, etc.
  • Baby food
  • Tea / coffee / Milo / drinking chocolate
  • Bottled water
  • Treats like chocolate & sweets
  • Juice
  • Sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade or any other rehydration drinks
  • Wine and beer
  • Baby supplies like nappies, formula, baby wipes, etc.
  • Household cleaning supplies – bleach, surface and floor cleaner, toilet cleaner and other cleaning products
  • Hand-sanitizer – needs to be at least 60% alcohol
  • Antibacterial soap, handwashing liquid and body wash
  • Medical supplies like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, cough and cold & flu medication, cough drops, etc. Get baby and children’s versions as well to administer to your kids.
  • Electrolyte powders or liquids
  • A thermometer
  • Disposable latex gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Batteries for anything that requires batteries
  • A month’s worth of prescription medication
  • Shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Boxes of tissues
  • Laundry detergent
  • Toilet paper and paper towels
  • Rubbish bags
  • Pet food and supplies

You can also purchase meat, seafood, bread & rolls and freeze if you have room in your freezer.

Make a plan to prevent boredom

As any other parent knows, keeping kids occupied at home can be an ordeal. In the event of a child care / school shutdown, plan ahead and stock up on things to make a possible enforced quarantine at home bearable. If your school hasn’t shut down yet, but you want to practice social distancing, here are some ideas for family fun you can do at home.

  • Books. Stock up on physical books or sign up at your local library and download ebooks that can be read on computers, tablets and phones.
  • Board games. Here’s our pick for best family board games.
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Pack of cards
  • Chalk
  • Craft supplies
  • Playdough & slime
  • LEGO and other building blocks
  • Colouring books, crayons and pencils
  • Subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Stan and Disney+.
  • Academic resources like homework books

For a full list of kids activities you can do at home, check out our what to do in the event of a school shutdown due to coronavirus article.

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