The cancellation of hundreds of fundraising events as a result of the coronavirus could undermine charities’ ability to support vulnerable beneficiaries, sector leaders warn.

They have now called on ministers to provide financial support, warning that charities may shortly be facing hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of losses.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Karl Wilding, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), said: “We need an emergency package for charities on the frontline of our communities. But this is not about the impact on charities, it is about the impact it will have on communities and individuals who rely on charities.”

The warnings follow the postponement of the London marathon, which last year raised £66m for hundreds of charities.

Wilding added that government should prioritise help for charities that provide support services such as community transport, food banks and local homelessness organisations, and those supplying care and support for older people and those with underlying health issues.

Around half of the biggest 25 UK charity-owned fundraising events – which between them raised more than £133m in 2018 – involve the mobilisation of thousands of sponsored participants in runs, walks and cycle rides, with medical research and health charities among the principal beneficiaries.

Many smaller charities fear that a lockdown will expose their lack of cash reserves and reliance on older volunteers.