From dried foods to toilet paper and drinking water – expert lists the items you need to stock up on before coronavirus becomes a global pandemic leading to mass shortages and empty shelves

  • Coronavirus has killed more than 2,200 people worldwide and infected 80,000
  • New hot spots have emerged in South Korea, Italy and Iran as the virus spreads
  • Supermarket shelves in some Italian towns emptied as coronavirus crisis grows 
  • Survival expert said Australians should start building good supply of dried foods
  • Root vegetables, dried fish and separate water supply will help during shortage 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Published: 10:45 AEST, 26 February 2020 | Updated: 15:47 AEST, 26 February 2020


Australians need to start stocking up on food and supplies before the spread of the deadly coronavirus becomes a global pandemic and stocks of required goods start to run low, a survival expert has warned.

While the vast majority of the 80,000 infections have been within China, 37 people have died in South Korea, Italy and Iran as the new hot spots emerged in the past week for COVID-19.

One of Australia’s leading survivalists said the nation’s shoppers should start bulking up their weekly shop before the virus’ spread leads to food supply shortages.  

A Chinese couple in protective masks and plastic coats shop in Beijing on February 11. A survival expert said shoppers in Australia should start preparing their cupboards for a food shortage

‘We should always be prepared for food shortages – not just from coronavirus but civil incidences, extreme weather and power outages which will cut us off from supply,’ Western Australian survival instructor Bob Cooper told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday.

Stockpiling by panicked shoppers has already seen shelves emptied in Italian towns at the centre of the country’s outbreak in the northern Veneto and Lombardy regions. 

Mr Cooper said it was too early for such panic here but said Australians should start thinking about whether their food cupboards can sustain them if the supply chain is broken.

‘You need to think about things that have a long shelf life: dried fruit, dried foods, cereals, pasta will also last a long time,’ he said.

‘Packets of flour will also allow to make your own bread.’

The survival expert said shoppers should be prioritising vegetables rather than protein, as the former should make up 80 per cent of our diet.

Empty shelves are pictured in a supermarket near Milan in Italy’s coronavirus-hit Lombardy region. Survival instructor Bob Cooper warned against panic buying but said Australians should start buying certain dried foods


Extra prescription medications, asthma relief inhalers 

Over-the-counter anti-fever and pain medications 

Feminine hygiene products

Family pack of toilet paper


Alcohol-containing hand rub

Household cleaning agents and soap 

 Tissues, paper towel

Cereals, grains, beans, lentils, pasta

Tinned food – fish, vegetables, fruit

Oil, spices and flavours

Dried fruit and nuts

Ultra-heat treated or powdered milk 

Soft drink or candy/chocolate for treats 

Pet food and care

 Source: Virology Down Under by University of Queensland virologists Dr Ian Mackay and Dr Katherine Arden

‘Things like root vegetables can be sun-dried and re-hydrated and last up to six months. I’ve tested it with bananas and fish as well,’ he said. 

Mr Cooper said even more important than food is keeping a supply of your own drinking water in case the supply runs out.

‘No-one is gonna die of starvation – it might get hard – but that should be the least of your priorities,’ he said. ‘You need to have your own water supply though.’ 

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy (pictured) said the Australian government is preparing for the coronavirus spread to become a pandemic

University of Queensland virology expert Ian Mackay has also compiled a thorough list of items Australians should stockpile in a box labelled ‘pandemic stash’.

As well as food items, included in the list are feminine hygiene products, over-the-counter medication, toilet paper and pet food if required.

The Australian government is preparing a contingency plan should the spread turn into a pandemic – a development which would be declared by the World Health Organisation.

‘Every part of the health system is now working on its plan so that we’re ready if things develop further in the future,’ chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said.   

It comes as Australia’s federal sports minister warned the nation’s athletes could be pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics in July as the coronavirus continues to spread globally. 

‘Australian athletes are ready to make their mark at the Tokyo Olympics – but it should not be at the risk of their health and well-being,’ sports minister Richard Colbeck said.

‘We continue to work with the relevant authorities both here and overseas to ensure our athletes remain safe and protected as the response to the coronavirus continues.’

Australian athletes can also choose on an individual basis whether to compete in Tokyo.

The virus has infected 80,000 – including 690 passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Pictured are passengers disembarking the ship on February 21 after a two-week quarantine ended

The government’s chief medical officer Professor Brendan Murphy said it was unclear how safe Japan would be for those travelling to the Games at this stage. 

‘We still haven’t seen the full impact of the Diamond Princess outbreak – we’re making a daily evaluation of the effects,’ he said. 

The worrying government comments follow Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates saying last week that organisers found no case for postponing or cancelling the Games.

In the past week, it emerged seven people had died and 229 are infected after an outbreak of the virus in Italy. 

A third Victorian passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state’s total number of cases to seven, chief health officer Brett Sutton confirmed.

The trio were repatriated to Victoria and are recovering in isolation.

Four people who previously tested positive for the virus in Victoria have recovered, the state’s health department said.



January 25 

  • Three men aged 43, 53, and 35 who had recently travelled to China contracted the disease.
  • Two flew in from Wuhan while the other arrived in Sydney from Shenzhen, south China.
  • They were treated in isolation at Westmead Hospital

January 27 

  • A 21-year-old woman is identified as the fourth person to test positive for the illness in NSW.
  • The woman, a student at UNSW, flew into Sydney International Airport on flight MU749 on January 23 and presented to the emergency department 24 hours later after developing flu-like symptoms.                                                                                                  


January 25

  • A Chinese national aged in his 50s becomes the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Australia.
  • The man flew to Melbourne on China Southern flight CZ321 from Wuhan via Guangzhou on January 19.
  • He was quarantined at Monash Hospital in Clayton in Melbourne’s east.

January 29

  • A Victorian man in his 60s is diagnosed with the coronavirus.
  • He became unwell on January 23 – two days after returning from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. 
  •  The man was confirmed as positive on January 29 and was subsequently seen by doctors at the Monash Medical Centre.     

 January 30

  • A woman in her 40s is found to have coronavirus. 
  • She was visiting from China and mostly spent time with her family.
  • She is being treated at Royal Melbourne Hospital.          

February 1

  • A woman in her 20s in Melbourne is found to have the virus 

 February 22 

  • Two passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship test positive
  • February 25
  • Third passenger taken off the cruise ship tests positive


January 29

  • Queensland confirms its first case after a 44-year-old Chinese national was diagnosed with the virus. He is being treated at Gold Coast University Hospital.

January 30

  • A 42-year-old Chinese woman who was travelling in the same Wuhan tour group as the 44-year-old man tests positive. She is in Gold Coast University Hospital in stable condition.  

February 4

  • An eight-year-old boy was diagnosed with coronavirus. He is also from the tour group where the other Queensland cases came from    

February 5  

  • A 37-year-old man, who was a member of a group of nine Chinese tourists in quarantine on the Gold Coast, also tested positive

February 6

  • A 37-year-old woman was diagnosed with coronavirus from the same travel group that flew to Queensland from Melbourne on January 27

February 21                                                                                                                                      

  • Two Queensland women, aged 54 and 55, tested positive for COVID-19 and will be flown to Brisbane for further treatment. 
  • A 57-year-old woman from Queensland also tested positive for the virus.   February 28                                                                                                                                          A 63-year-old woman was confirmed to have the virus after returning to the Gold Coast from Iran.


February 1

  • A Chinese couple in their 60s who arrived in Adelaide from Wuhan to visit relatives are confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • A 24-year-old woman from South Australia was transferred to Royal Adelaide Hospital


February 21

  • A 78-year-old man from Western Australia was transferred to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. On February 28, he was taken into intensive care in a ‘serious’ condition


  • Of the 23 overall cases in Australia, eight contracted the disease on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had gone into quarantine in the Japanese port of Yokohama
  • They tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving at the Manigurr-ma Village Howard Springs facility in Darwin, and are now being treated in their home states