Preparing for a coronavirus outbreak

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Preparing for a coronavirus outbreak
Preparing for a coronavirus outbreak

You too probably cannot escape all the news about the coronavirus (COVID-19), and you may be concerned. Cases of the virus are being reported in more and more places, and you're probably wondering what will happen if it gets to your area. Both the World Health Organization and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment advise everyone to take certain measures that are useful to prevent even more people from becoming ill due to infection with the corona virus.


Method 1 of 4: Preventing the virus from spreading further

Step 1. Get vaccinated

Get vaccinated if a vaccine is available to you. Several vaccines have been approved for use. Your eligibility for the vaccine depends on how old you are, whether you work in healthcare, and whether you have an underlying condition. Healthcare workers, residents of long-term care facilities, essential professions, and those with higher-risk medical conditions should receive the vaccine first.

  • Four vaccines have been approved for use in the EU, namely Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen.
  • It's unlikely you'll be able to choose which vaccine to get when you make an appointment, as supplies are limited. However, each vaccine has shown excellent protection against COVID-19 in studies and significantly reduces your chances of serious illness and hospitalization.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 1
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 1

Step 2. Wash your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds

It's that simple, and yet washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself from illness. Wet your hands by running them under warm running water, then put some mild soap in your palm. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds, then rinse the soap under warm running water.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also help prevent infection with the virus. Use hand gel as an extra disinfectant, but never instead of washing your hands

Step 3. Practice social distancing (keeping your distance from others) by staying at home as much as possible

The virus spreads faster in groups, especially in large crowds. Fortunately, you can help protect yourself and others just by staying home. Only go outside if there is absolutely no other option, for example to do some shopping. And try to entertain yourself at home the rest of the time.

  • Do you belong to a risk group and do you live with someone who has a so-called essential profession and who has to continue to work? Then be extra careful and try to have as little contact with that person as possible to protect yourself.
  • If you do have to meet people, the rule in the Netherlands is that you should try to limit meetings to ten people or less. Always remember that young or healthy people can also become infected with the virus and pass it on to others. If you live outside the Netherlands, check with the local authorities about the rules at that time regarding the maximum number of people that may come together.
  • You can do a lot of fun things at home! You can play games, make something, go outside, read a book, play in the garden, or watch a movie.

Step 4. Keep at least 1.5 meters (two arm's length) away from other people in public

You may have to go out among people, for example to do some shopping. Always try to keep enough distance from other people in case one of you is infected. You can spread COVID-19 before you start experiencing symptoms, so err on the side of caution and keep your distance.

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 2
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 2

Step 5. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth

An infection with the coronavirus usually occurs by inhaling droplets when someone who is infected has to sneeze or cough, or by touching your face with your hands, which can contain droplets. Don't touch your face unless you've just washed your hands. If you do, you could accidentally transfer the virus or other germs to your body.

If possible, use tissues or paper tissues to blow your nose or when you have to cough. Your hands could be dirty

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 3
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 3

Step 6. Avoid shaking hands with other people, whether they look sick or not

Unfortunately, people infected with the coronavirus can spread the virus even if they have no symptoms. Therefore, just to be sure, don't shake anyone's hand until the danger of the coronavirus has passed. Instead, politely decline a hand if someone extends it to you and explain that you are trying to avoid being infected with the coronavirus.

For example, you can say, "Nice to meet you. Normally I would shake hands, but the WHO and RIVM recommend that you do not shake hands until the threat of the coronavirus is over.'

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 4
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 4

Step 7. Stay away from people who cough and sneeze

They are probably not infected with the coronavirus, but if you notice that someone is showing symptoms of a respiratory infection, it's better to be safe. Quietly and respectfully distance yourself from anyone who appears to be coughing or sneezing.

Be nice when you tell someone you want to distance yourself. For example, you can say, "I just noticed you have to cough. I hope you feel better soon, but I'll take a break so I don't accidentally inhale any bacteria or viruses.”


While the coronavirus likely originated in China, there is no direct link between the disease and people from Asia. Unfortunately, people of Asian descent appear to be victims of discrimination, prejudice and aggressive behavior from others. The virus has spread all over the world and everyone is contracting or transmitting it, so be nice and honest with everyone.

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 5
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 5

Step 8. Sanitize surfaces before touching them, both at home and in public areas

RIVM advises to keep your home, workplace and public areas as clean as possible. Apply a spray disinfectant to hard surfaces or wipe with a cleaning cloth. Spray softer surfaces as often as possible with a specially designed disinfectant spray.

  • Clean counters, railings and doorknobs with, for example, Lysol or another disinfectant. Or, for example, use Clorox branded bleach wipes to clean such hard surfaces.
  • Lysol is also suitable for cleaning soft surfaces.
  • If you prefer to use natural cleaning agents, for example, white wine vinegar is an excellent option.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 6
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 6

Step 9. Wear a face mask when you go out the door

The mask catches the droplets that are released when you have to cough or sneeze, so that you don't infect others so easily. If you wear a cloth face mask, wash it every day.

You do not have to buy special surgical or medical masks


Surgical mouth caps that you buy in the store no extra protection against the coronavirus or COVID-19. Only well-fitting so-called N95 masks offer protection against the virus, and such masks are only available to a limited extent. N95 masks should therefore be absolutely reserved for healthcare professionals who treat patients infected with the coronavirus.

Method 2 of 4: Stocking up for emergencies

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 7
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 7

Step 1. Fill your kitchen cabinets and freezer with enough food for two to four weeks

If you become ill yourself, or if the region where you live is affected by an outbreak of the corona virus, you will have to stay at home. You will not be able to go to the store and you will not be able to order meals. Prepare for that by stocking up on extra shelf-stable foods and making sure your kitchen cupboards are well stocked. Also, fill the freezer with fresh foods that you can thaw when you need them.

  • Buy extra canned products, such as canned tuna, and other packaged foods that have a long shelf life.
  • Also stock frozen foods and other foods that you can freeze, such as meat, bread, and other things that can go bad. You can then thaw them on the day you want to eat them.
  • If you drink milk, buy powdered milk that you can store at room temperature, as there is a chance that you won't be able to go to the store for a while.
  • You can continue to eat healthy during the outbreak! You can freeze fresh produce and use it later in the meal, or you can use frozen or canned vegetables with as few preservatives and other additives as possible. It is also useful to have a stock of healthy grain products in your kitchen cupboard, so that you can always make smart, healthy choices when you get hungry or start cooking.

Did you know?

If the region where you live is affected by an outbreak of the coronavirus, RIVM will advise everyone to stay at home and try to be as little as possible near other people. This is called 'social distancing' or creating social distancing and it helps prevent the spread of disease.

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 8
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 8

Step 2. Buy extra necessities like toilet paper, soap and detergent

If someone at your home is sick or if many people in your area are infected, there is a chance that you will have to stay at home for several weeks. If that happens, buy household items that you use regularly so you don't run out. If you can, buy enough of these for a month so you're prepared for anything. Things you could buy are for example:

  • Tissues-enough for when you have to cough and sneeze and to blow your nose
  • dishwashing liquid
  • hand soap
  • Kitchen paper
  • toilet paper
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cleaning products
  • Sanitary pads or tampons
  • Toiletries
  • Diapers
  • Pet food


Don't buy too much. You don't need to stock up for more than about two weeks. Remember, you also want to make sure that the other people around you have enough to keep themselves and their home clean and stay indoors if necessary.

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 9
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 9

Step 3. Buy over-the-counter medicines for respiratory infections

Although there is no treatment or cure for the virus itself, you can do something about the symptoms you normally get with a respiratory infection. Buy a pack of any of the following: nasal drops or other expectorant, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (called Aleve) in case you get sick. It may also be wise to get Keespastilles or cough syrup to control any coughing attacks.

If you live with a lot of people, it might be a good idea to have several packs of each medicine at home, in case several people in your home get sick. Ask your doctor how much of each type of medicine he or she recommends you buy

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 10
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 10

Step 4. If you take other medicines, make sure you have enough for at least a month

If you take certain medicines on a daily basis, talk to your doctor and the pharmacy about the possibility of stocking up on some extra until the threat of the coronavirus passes. If the area where you live experiences an outbreak of the virus, or if you become ill yourself, you may not be able to top up your medicines. Just to be on the safe side, try to make sure you have enough of your medicines at home for at least 30 days.

  • You may need to visit the pharmacy every two weeks to partially replenish your prescription medications. That way you always have a stock for a month.
  • Discuss your options with your doctor or pharmacy. Ask if they can recommend what makes the most sense in your case.

Method 3 of 4: Plan in case you can't go to school or work

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 11
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 11

Step 1. Plan childcare for the children in case schools and daycare centers have to close

If a lot of people in your area become infected, there is a good chance that schools and daycare centers will have to close, or let the children go home earlier. This can be quite stressful if you are a working parent, because you have to arrange childcare for your children. Find out what childcare options you have. Try to arrange as much in advance as possible so that you are well prepared.

  • For example, you could ask a relative of yours if he or she could babysit your children if schools and daycare centers close. Or you could discuss with your employer whether you could work from home or take time off in that case.
  • Chances are that your children want to watch more television and use their computer, smartphone or tablet more often than usual. You can set up a new routine for them and help them choose the right shows and movies to watch.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 12
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 12

Step 2. Consult with your employer about the possibilities you have to work from home

You don't know how to worry about your health right away, but if many people in your area become infected with the coronavirus, you may not be able to go to work. There is a good chance that companies and other organizations will close to prevent the virus from spreading further. To be better prepared for this, ask your employer whether you could work remotely in the event of an outbreak. Discuss what you could do, how you could be accountable for it, and what hours you could work.

  • For example, you can say: 'I heard that the RIVM may advise employees to stay at home if we are faced with an outbreak of the coronavirus here. When it comes to that, I'd love to work remotely. Could we talk about that?'
  • Of course, working from home is not an option for everyone. Nevertheless, it is good to ensure that you are prepared for this possibility if you could do your work, or part of it, at home.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 13
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 13

Step 3. Check which aid organizations you could turn to if there is a chance that your income will go wrong

You may be seriously concerned about how to support your family if you can't work from home. Fortunately, there are organizations that can offer help. The local food banks can help you stock your kitchen cupboards, and nonprofit organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army may be able to help you if you have other financial problems. Make a list of places in your area where you could turn for help.

  • Religious organizations in your area also sometimes offer help to people in need.
  • Try not to worry too much. We're all making this together no, and there's a good chance the community will come together to help those in need.

Method 4 of 4: Stay informed without panicking

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 14
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 14

Step 1. Follow the latest news about the coronavirus no more than once or twice a day

RIVM and the World Health Organization broadcast the latest information every day, and it's important to stay informed so you can protect yourself. Just make sure the fear of the coronavirus starts to rule your mind. Read the news once a day, instead of constantly looking for the latest news.

  • For the latest live information from the World Health Organization (WHO), go to: and for the Dutch information to:
  • Remember that you probably won't have to worry about the virus, so try to stay as calm as possible.


Because many people are afraid, fake news can be found all over the Internet. Consult reliable sources to follow the news so you don't panic unnecessarily. Furthermore, check everything you read by always checking the website of the RIVM or the WHO.

Prepare for Coronavirus Step 15
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 15

Step 2. Make a plan with the rest of your family in case you have to deal with an outbreak of the virus

That way you will feel a lot calmer. Perhaps you are afraid that one of your relatives will get sick. Or maybe you have kids who have questions about the virus. Organize a family gathering and plan how you will deal with it should the virus spread. That way, you will all be better prepared and in better control of the situation. For example, you can discuss the following:

  • Make sure that every member of the family has enough food and other supplies in the house.
  • Tell the children that you will take good care of them.
  • Think about what you can do if you have to stay indoors for a long time during an outbreak.
  • Provide each member of the family with a list of emergency contact information.
  • Set up a sickroom at home in case someone gets sick.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 16
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 16

Step 3. Try to live as healthy as possible to give your resistance a boost

You cannot treat the coronavirus with drugs, so the best way to protect yourself against it is a good resistance. Fortunately, you can strengthen your resistance yourself by living a healthy life. Ask your doctor what exactly he or she recommends in your specific case. You could try the following:

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with every meal.
  • Exercise for half an hour five times a week.
  • Take a multivitamin supplement if your doctor recommends it.
  • Try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every day.
  • Try to relax as much as possible.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Get a flu shot if you haven't been vaccinated yet.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 17
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 17

Step 4. If you think you may have symptoms of the virus, call your doctor

Although you are probably not infected with the coronavirus, it is important that you take any symptoms seriously. If you have symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, contact your doctor to determine if you may be infected with the virus. In the meantime, stay home to prevent further spreading the virus or other germs. Your doctor may have you tested to determine whether you are indeed infected.

  • Do not enter the practice without letting staff know that you think you may be infected with the coronavirus. The staff will likely isolate you from other patients and leave you alone in a room. But they may also advise you to wait at home or in your car.
  • If you are infected with the coronavirus, you may be able to take care of yourself at home. If the doctor thinks you might be experiencing complications, he or she may want to keep you under supervision.
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 18
Prepare for Coronavirus Step 18

Step 5. Before going anywhere, check the latest travel advice and only travel if absolutely necessary

The Minister of Health asks people not to make unnecessary trips to help prevent further spread of the virus. RIVM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also advise against all non-essential travel abroad.

  • Especially people who belong to a risk group should not travel. The elderly, people with underlying health conditions and people with a weakened immune system should avoid all non-essential travel to avoid becoming infected.
  • are you worried? You may be able to cancel your trip and get some or all of your money back. Ask the travel agency or the company where you booked your trip what options you have.


  • Try not to panic. A pandemic is scary to experience, but you probably don't need to worry.
  • Remember to be nice to everyone. Do not assume that someone is infected with the coronavirus because he or she is Asian. Keep in mind that the virus has spread across at least 200 countries, affecting all kinds of different populations. Also, don't assume that everyone who coughs has the coronavirus.
  • If you've bought too much stuff for the pandemic, you can always donate what's left to others who are less fortunate.

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