THE government is prepared to prevent large family gatherings at Christmas if coronavirus restrictions are still in place, a cabinet minister has said.

Those living in areas under different tiers may not even be allowed to meet in groups of fewer than six, according to environment secretary George Eustice.

He told LBC that it was ‘too early to say’ how festivities could be affected, but added: "Obviously if we do need to have restrictions in place and prevent families from coming together in large gatherings, if that's necessary to control the virus that's what we'll have to do."

Mr Eustice told Times Radio that families living in different tiers spending Christmas together was ‘not provided for currently’, but rejected demands from the Liberal Democrats to plan coronavirus restrictions for the festive period now.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s today programme, he said: "This is a rapidly developing situation, and we are making judgments all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what's appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area.

"We should set our guidelines, not as the Lib Dems say based on Christmas is coming, we should set our guidelines based on the epidemiology of this virus and follow the science and respond to emerging situations in a proportionate way."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the government's failure to introduce a circuit-break lockdown over the school half-term has ‘put Christmas at risk’, and urged ministers to ‘do something quickly to save Christmas’.

Asked on Times Radio if he thought families would be able to meet in groups of more than six, the Labour MP said: "That's in the hands of all of us, and in the hands of the decisions the government makes in the next week or so about what they're going to do to get on top of this virus.

"I think because they've missed this window of opportunity over the half-term, I'm worried now that what we'll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action over November and December – which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.

"The government have got to do something quickly to save Christmas for everybody, because we want people to have a family Christmas and I think it would be awful if people didn't have that."