Christmas dinner presents the “perfect conditions” for coronavirus to spread, an expert has warned.

It comes as some have called for restrictions to be maintained over Christmas. 

Professor Stephen Reicher, a social psychologist from the University of St Andrews, told Times Radio: “Christmas is a gift to the virus. If you want the perfect conditions for the spread of virus it would be to be indoors, somewhere that wasn’t well ventilated, somewhere which was crowded, somewhere where there’s alcohol so that we forget our inhibitions and that describes perfectly the Christmas dinner.”

Prof Reicher, who sits on the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which advises the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), added: “Of course we don’t want to give gifts to this virus, we want to look after ourselves and the best way of doing that, I think, is sadly to postpone if we can.

“I recognise that for some families it does make sense to meet up, I mean, if you’ve got an elderly relative who might not see another Christmas or somebody who’s suffering greatly there will be exceptions.

“But if we turn the exception into the rule and if many people meet, then we really are heading towards a disaster.”

He argued that people meeting over the five days of relaxed measures over Christmas was “too long” and that the mixing of households from different areas across the country could “relaunch the pandemic”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to rule out the possibility of a third national lockdown for England in the new year, while the Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said a post-Christmas lockdown in Scotland “remains on the table”.