Yes, you should have a coronavirus emergency kit. Here’s what to include

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What to include in a coronavirus emergency kit
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Editor’s Note: This story was published before the World Health Organization declared novel coronavirus a pandemic and Canada’s chief health officer labelled the virus a “serious public health threat.” For the latest coronavirus news, click here.

The novel coronavirus outbreak is sweeping the nation.

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises steadily, Health Canada is urging Canadians to be prepared in the event they have to self-isolate — and that includes creating an emergency kit.

READ MORE: How to practice social distancing during coronavirus outbreak

A typical emergency kit contains basic supplies that your family can survive on during an emergency, “even in cases where the power is out for an extended period of time or you have no access to running water or other necessities,” Health Canada said on its site.

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“Make sure your emergency kit is easy to carry — in a duffel bag, backpack or a suitcase with wheels, for example — and that everyone in the household knows where it is.”

On the list of items, Health Canada recommends two litres of water per person per day that you predict you could be in self-isolation.

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If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, the Public Health of Agency of Canada recommends a self-isolation period of 14 days.

However, you shouldn’t leave self-isolation without clear instruction from a health-care professional. They also recommend including foods that won’t spoil, like “canned goods, energy bars and dried foods.”

“Remember to pack a manual can opener so you can get into the food,” the site reads.

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READ MORE: How many Canadians have coronavirus? Total number of confirmed cases by region

Other items on the list include:

  • A flashlight
  • Battery-powered or wind-up radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Special needs or health-related items such as prescription medications, infant formula or equipment for people with disabilities
  • Extra keys for your car and your house
  • Cash (especially smaller bills and change for payphones)
  • Your family’s emergency plan
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“If you have a lot of people in your household, you might want to make a personalized kit for each person instead of one large kit for the entire family,” said the agency.

Coronavirus-related quarantine

Beyond the items in your standard emergency kit, Health Canada has some additional coronavirus-specific recommendations in the event you’re placed in self-isolation.

The first is to refill your prescriptions so you don’t have to visit a busy pharmacy and risk spreading the novel coronavirus to others.

“Consider seeing your health-care provider to renew your prescriptions ahead of time,” reads the Health Canada website.

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The agency also advises Canadians to stock up on “non-perishable” food items, such as dried pasta and sauce, prepared canned soups and canned vegetables and beans.

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Health Canada also recommends having extra stores of things like toilet paper, pet food and feminine hygiene products. This will ensure you don’t need to leave your house should you become sick.

However, due to limits on the supply chain to meet demand, Health Canada does not recommend stockpiling these items all at once.

READ MORE: Officials urge Canadians to ‘avoid all cruise ship travel’ over COVID-19 risk

“It is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household stores instead of making large-scale purchases all at once,” reads the site. “To do this, you can add a few extra items to your grocery cart every time you shop.”

Do Canadians need to stockpile items?

Canadians wary about the spread of COVID-19 are filling up carts at grocery stores and pharmacies, stockpiling supplies they may need if things get worse. In February, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu suggested that people consider stockpiling food and medicine.

“It’s really about, first of all, making sure that you do have enough supplies so if someone in your family becomes ill, if you yourself become ill, that you have what you need to survive for a week or so without going outside,” she said.

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Other health officials, like Ottawa Public Health’s Dr. Vera Etches, has also said staying well supplied is good standby advice that’s always applicable — not just in this case.

She said public health agencies warn all the time that people should have provisions for unexpected emergencies, including snowstorms, power outages and even possible pandemics. However, the government also cautioned Canadians not to rush to stores and buy in bulk, noting that may put a strain on the supply chain. Instead, Health Canada recommends buying a few items on each trip to the store.

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“The reason for stockpiling these items is not necessarily because you will need to self-isolate,” the website read.

“Having these supplies on hand will ensure you do not need to leave your home at the peak of the outbreak or if you become ill.”

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Anna Banerji, director of global and Indigenous health at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, previously told Global News that stockpiling is largely caused by anxiety.

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“I think it’s a good idea to have an emergency supply kit. That’s a contingency plan, and it’s something that all Canadians should have, an emergency supply of things like they say: 72 hours of water or food, flashlights, matches, those kinds of things,” she explained.

However, Banerji cautioned against Canadians rushing out and buying large amounts of household items at once specifically over coronavirus fears.

“To say to every Canadian, ‘You need to get toilet paper,’ I think that’s going to cause shortages. I’m not sure that’s necessary.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Maham Abedi

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