Many petrol stations will be forced to close due to a lack of sales and their businesses becoming unprofitable, a trade association has warned.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) stated that sites in rural areas where fuel use has collapsed the most are particularly vulnerable.
The organisation said in a statement: “Many petrol stations will have to close in the coming weeks, as sales of fuel dry up and their businesses become unviable.”
The PRA, which represents independent fuel retailers who account for 70% of UK forecourts, advised motorists to check their petrol station is still open before going to fill up.
It will attempt to keep a “strategic network of petrol stations” open across the country.
PRA chairman Brian Madderson said: “To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, petrol filling stations must remain open but this is proving to be a challenge.
“Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels to avoid suffering significant stock losses.”
The PRA cited figures published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over the weekend which it said show that three out of five petrol stations have full storage tanks.
It noted that independent retailers would have bought this fuel days or weeks earlier at much higher wholesale prices than those available today.
The trade body also said fuel consumption has fallen by more than 70% due to the pandemic.
Fuel prices have had their biggest weekly fall since current records began in June 2003.
The average price of a litre of petrol fell by 8p to £1.12 in the seven days to Monday, while diesel prices dropped 4p to £1.19.
Some retailers are now pricing their petrol at less than £1 per litre.
The reduction has been driven by oil prices plunging in the past few weeks since Covid-19 took hold across Europe.
They were also heavily dented when Saudi Arabia, which produces around 10% of the world’s oil, decided to slash prices and ramp up production in a trade war with Russia.
On Monday oil prices fell to an 18-year low after the Saudis revealed plans to increase oil exports to 10.6 million barrels a day from May, a 6% increase.
The number of motorists who can take advantage of cheaper fuel is limited though, as the Government has ordered people to only go outside for food, health reasons or to commute if they cannot work from home.
A BEIS spokesman said: “The Government has robust contingency plans in place to ensure that fuel continues to be available to the public.
“Forecourt closures have so far been extremely limited but we are keeping the situation under close review and continue to engage with industry to monitor stock levels at forecourts across the UK.”
Coronavirus: Everything you need to know