Two in five motorists concerned about catching coronavirus from petrol pumps once lockdown lifts – but can it happen?
- New poll found that 41% are worried about petrol pumps spreading the virus
- This increases to 48% of drivers who are deemed at high-risk of Covid-19
- PHE has spoken out on the risk of contracting the virus from fuel station pumps
- Concerns come as some 100 small fuel stations have been closed due to lack of sales – and another 900 are at risk, according to industry body
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Two in five drivers are concerned about handling petrol pumps when lockdown lifts – and almost half of those who are most at risk from Covid-19 say they’ll be fearful about contracting the virus when filling up their cars.
A huge 69 per cent of drivers polled by insurer Admiral believe that you can catch coronavirus from a petrol pump.
With such a vast number of people feeling unsafe about carrying out regular day to day tasks, it’s unsurprising that people are taking extra precautions when filling up cars with almost half of drivers claiming they’ll wear gloves at fuel station forecourts.
Refuelling fears: Two in five motorists polled by Admiral said they are concerned about catching Covid-19 from fuel pumps
For many around Britain, not going out in cars for weeks on end has left no need to head to a petrol station to refuel.
With road traffic volumes dropping by around 60 per cent until this week, a lack of demand for petrol and diesel has put many independent fuel retailers – especially smaller filling stations in rural areas – at risk of closure.
Some 100 have already been shut and another 900 are at risk, according to the Petrol Retailers Association.
That said, there are an estimated 7.1million key workers around the UK, who have been reliant on fuel stations to remain open during the last two months.
With fuel pumps being handled throughout the pandemic, there are concerns among the motoring community about the safety of return to petrol stations in the aftermath of lockdown.
In a poll of 1,400 motorists, 41 per cent said they are scared they will catch coronavirus from a petrol station when they get back behind the wheel more regularly.
That figure increases to 48 per cent of those deemed to be most at risk to the deadly virus.
With almost seven in 10 believing that you can catch Covid-19 from a fuel pump, many drivers said they will be taking extra precautions to shield themselves by wearing gloves and washing their hands after filling up.
Public Health England has stated that petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces for harboring the virus, but recommends motorists wear gloves when filling up
Are fuel pumps a hotbed for spreading coronavirus?
Additional safeguarding while filling up has been recommended by Public Health England, even despite clarifying that motorists are at no greater risk of getting coronavirus from a pump than handling any other hard object.
PHE says: ‘Petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces, although we do recommend people use gloves and wash their hands after using them.’
Major fuel retailer Shell added: ‘The UK Petroleum Industry Association, based on advice from PHE, have confirmed that they are not aware of any evidence that fuel nozzles or other forecourt features such as pay-at-pump keypads are any more or less prone to the spread of Covid-19 than any other hard surfaces.
‘We encourage everyone to follow government guidance by washing hands thoroughly and maintaining social distancing.’
As well as providing gloves at filling stations, ensuring restroom facilities are available to customers to wash their hands and displaying signage to keep people two metres apart, retailers are recommending that drivers pay for fuel with a card or contactless payments in the store, rather than cash.
Shell has the additional facility of using its dedicated app – allowing you to choose a ‘Pay at Pump’ service from within your car using a smartphone so you don’t even need to go into a store.
But while a quarter of people are scared to drive due to exposure to germs because of the outbreak, 14 per cent of those polled admitted they are still making non-essential journeys.
Men came out as the worst offenders with one in five saying they’ve driven when they shouldn’t have, compared to only 8 per cent of women.
Admiral says that anxieties using petrol stations centre around the fact that many people are using the facilities throughout the day, and this has impacted drivers around the country.
When it comes to essential key workers, the findings reveal that one in five are scared they will catch coronavirus from their car.
Clare Egan, head of motor product at the insurer, said: ‘For many, staying at home and avoiding unnecessary travel is the best way to stay safe, but of course for millions in the UK, this isn’t an option.
‘It’s understandable that people would feel concerned when visiting a petrol station to fill up their car, especially as a key worker or someone taking care of vulnerable people, but following guidelines will reduce the risk to you and to others.’
She added: ‘Now more than ever is a time to be aware of germs and hygiene within your vehicle, so cleaning the door handle, gear stick, steering wheel and handbrake with disinfectant wipes often, will also reduce the risk of coronavirus spread when using your car.’
Is this UK product the answer for filling up safely at forecourts?
Devon-based company, GripHero, claims that over 2,000 forecourts across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia have signed up to use its free hand-protection dispensers at fuel pumps in the last month.
The award-winning patented hand-protection device is the only dispenser in the world permitted to sit on fuel pump handles.
It uses ATEX-Certified anti-static hand-protection material, which removes all chance of ignition caused by static. That means it can be fitted in the refueling zone.
By ensuring that hand-protection is available at the precise point where it is needed – on the fuel pump handle – GripHero helps to ensure that motorists refuelling their vehicles do not come into contact with plastic and metal surfaces where Covid-19 could be passed from one driver to another.
In addition to cutting waste – by dispensing just one item of hand-protection at a time – and preventing transmission of Covid-19 from driver to driver via the fuel pump handle, installing GripHero on each and every fuel pump handle ends the common occurrence of hand-protection shortages.
Westmorland Ltd, the operator of multi-award-winning motorway service stations across the country, including Gloucester Services, is one of the groups that has adopted GripHero since the pandemic.
It is using the dispensers across its network, including Tebay Services and Rheged Centre in Cumbria.
Andy Smith, Group Fuels Manager for Westmorland Ltd explained: ‘It is more important than ever before to protect our customers in the best way we possibly can.
‘By offering GripHero, Westmorland Ltd is playing its part in the battle against coronavirus, and is dramatically reducing wastage that other glove dispensers produce.’
Petrol price are ‘ironically’ at a four-year low
Admiral’s report was published as petrol prices sunk to a four-year low, according to the latest figures.
The average cost of a litre of unleaded at UK forecourts has now dipped to £1.08, according to Government data – the lowest it has been since April 2016.
The price collapse means filling a 55-litre family car is around £7 cheaper today than six weeks ago, around the time the lockdown was first put in place and oil prices collapsed.
Diesel has also fallen in price, sinking to an average of £1.15 per litre, which is the lowest level since October 2016.
These are the average fuel prices in the UK, according to RAC Fuel Watch on 5 May 2020
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the timing of the price fall was ‘ironic’, given that it has come as ‘many of us are only making a fraction of the trips we did before the lockdown’.
He added: ‘Based on current wholesale prices, there’s the possibility for even lower prices – but we can’t see this happening unless lockdown restrictions are eased and fuel retailers start selling fuel in much greater volumes again.
‘With so much fuel in storage needing to be used up, retailers shouldn’t have too many reasons to put prices up as any surge in car use is unlikely to make much of a dent in supplies for some time.’