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.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
'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