PRA boss Brian Madderson has said he is confident there will be no fuel shortages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, despite panic buying of other commodities.

He said the PRA had been in contact with its equivalent in Italy, where the spread of the virus is some weeks ahead of the UK, and that Italian fuel sales are down about 60% due to travel restrictions. “It is the reverse of panic buying,” he told Auto Express magazine.

Currently in the UK there is a more mixed picture, he said. Fuel sales in urban areas are steady with reduced journey numbers being balanced out by the number of travellers switching from public transport to cars. However, filling stations relying more on passing trade, such as motorway service stations, have reported a slump in demand as fewer motorists embark on longer journeys.

Madderson said filling stations were doing everything they could to ensure high standards of hygiene on forecourts for both customers and staff. All PRA members are offering gloves for motorists to use at the pumps, and hand sanitiser is being offered to customers and staff, where available.

But he warned fuel retailers were struggling to deep clean forecourts because cleaning companies are prioritising front-line services such as the NHS and care homes.

He said some fuel retailers were taking further steps, with a small number refusing to accept cash due to concerns over contaminated notes.