What to Buy Now in Case a Pandemic Is Declared, According to a Virologist

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As the deadly new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, a scientist has released a list of items to collect in case COVID-19 is declared a pandemic—but stressed that people should not panic buy or hoard.

Virologist Ian Mackay, adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, wrote in a blog post that, as COVID-19 isn’t widespread in most parts of the world, “now is a great time to make a list, label up a ‘Pandemic Stash’ box, and begin to slowly fill it with items that won’t go off and that you won’t touch unless needed.”

Writing on his Virology Down Under website Tuesday, Mackay said if more cases appear and can’t be traced back to known chains of transmission then “the efforts in some countries to contain COVID-19 will have failed.”

“At some point, we’ll be in the main phase of a pandemic,” he said, emphasizing that “a pandemic doesn’t necessarily mean the disease is severe” but rather denotes a pathogen that has spread widely within two or more countries other than the first one to report it.

Mackay suggested that while some things are out of the control of the average person, we can reduce our risk of being infected and cut the chance of running out of essential foods and goods.

The list included extra prescription drugs and over-the-counter fever and pain medicines; feminine hygiene products; toilet paper and tissues; and vitamins “in case food shortages limit the variety in your diet.” He also advised buying items including soap, alcohol hand rub and household cleaning products.

In terms of food, he suggested purchasing cereals, grains, beans, lentils and pasta; tinned food such as fish, vegetables and fruit; oil, spices and other flavorings; dried fruit and nuts; powdered milk; items for pets; as well as soft drinks, candy and chocolate for treats. Mackay urged people to also consider the needs of elderly relatives.

Mackay also provided a list to be used in the event that a “severe” pandemic cuts access to fresh foods. The products “should be the last things to buy if you have a hint of when supplies might slow or stop for a (hopefully short) time.”