The Government is urging people who may have visited certain parts of the world to self-isolate to help manage the spread of the deadly coronavirus – which has now reached more than 300 people in the UK.
Sick pay rules have changed, and employers are being advised to encourage working from home, while those who have come into contact with the virus are being told to quarantine themselves for two weeks.
And it's not just those who have been abroad, either.
When someone tests positive for coronavirus, authorities will try to track down everyone that person has been in contact with to ask them to self-isolate too.
And it's sparked a mass panic – with shoppers stockpiling to ensure they don't run out of supplies in a sudden emergency.
But do you need to stockpile – and if you want to keep on top of your supplies, what should you be buying?
Do I need to stockpile?
It makes sense for every household to store enough basic essentials to last for a couple of weeks – but that doesn't mean hoarding hundreds of cans of beans and buying all of the pasta you can see.
For some reason toilet paper is often the item that sells out first when people fear an impending crisis, and it is now in short supply in shops across the world from Australia to Britain, even though coronavirus has not significantly affected its production.
Jennifer Cole, an academic who studies resilience at Royal Holloway University of London, said supermarket supply chains were more crisis-resistant than most people realise, although there may be temporary shortages of particular items. The government ought to issue clearer advice about what people should keep at home in case of disruption by a full-scale epidemic, according to experts.
If you're worried about not having enough food or living essentials, don't panic.
The government is advising that it's okay to have friends or family drop off supplies, and there's always the possibility of getting your shopping delivered – although this may come with its own delays.
For people with money to spare, takeaways are also an option, though services may be busier than usual.
Francesca Henry, owner of the Money Fox blog said: "I think a stockpile is a good idea.
"That doesn't mean going crazy with the amounts, but thinking about what would happen if you weren't able to leave the house (due to infection) or if everything is going to be running out or low in the shops."
Naomi Willis from moneysaving blog SkintDad.co.uk adds that it's always worth keeping on top of essentials, whether you're worried about coronavirus or not.
"Say there is flooding or a snowstorm, and you can't leave the house, or there is a problem getting paid or benefits are unexpectedly stopped, and you cannot afford to buy food," she said.
"Having a bit of extra food in the house can give you some meals to fall back on while things blow over."
Food stockpile checklist
Money blogger Skint Dad has put together a list of things to consider if you're looking to stock up on a few extras:
- Pasta – high in carbs and stores well. Can be used in loads of different meals
- Rice – high in carbs and stores well. Can be used in loads of different meals
- Lentils – nutritious, easy to cook and a good source of protein
- Pulses – nutritious, easy to cook and a good source of protein
- Cereal/oats – avoid ones with processed sugars
- Beans – a good source of protein
- Canned meat
- Canned fish
- Canned veg – fulls of vitamins. Keep the liquid for stocks
- Canned fruits – get your vitamins.
- Dried fruits – last for ages and keep your fruit intake up
- Powdered milk – it may not taste great on it’s own but is good for oats.
- Soups – can be used as the base for other dishes
- Baking goods to make bread
- Nuts – for protein and fats
- Coffee and tea
- Herbs and spices – to help flavour foods
- Sweets – not just for a treat, good for a quick bit of energy.
- Bottled water – it’ll be clean
- Anything specific for kids under two years old, if you have kids
- Pet supplies, if you have pets
"Good things to include in a two-week stockpile would be items that you can pop in the freezer, and any tinned or canned goods," Henry explained.
Willis added: "It's a good idea to get foods that have a long shelf life, like pasta, rice, beans and pulses, and tinned fruit, vegetables, meats and fish.
"Long-life milk would be fine for your porridge in the morning and is great for tea, and I think it's a good idea to have some basic ingredients to make bread.
"Biscuits and sweets are also a nice treat."
It's also worth making sure you have some household essentials set aside such as medicines, washing up liquid, and laundry products.
Consider things you personally may not wish to run out of, for instance contact lenses, toothpaste or shampoo.
Here's a list of obvious items to include:
- Washing up liquid
- Soap/ handwash
- Shower gel
- Tampons and sanitary towels
- Toilet roll
- Washing detergent
- Basic medicines – headaches, cold and flu, hayfever, coughs, plus any essentials you take regularly
- Bin bags
- Bleach, surface cleaner and other cleaning products
- Cling film and / or foil
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