A SUNDAY newspaper claims new evidence has emerged that the Government is paving the way to implement “plan B” measures in England to combat the spread of Covid.

The Observer says it has learnt that the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) contacted local authorities on Friday to canvass their level of support for the “immediate rollout of the winter plan – plan B”.

The claim comes after Boris Johnson has so far publicly resisted suggestions that he should order the implementation of plan B, a menu of measures which includes the mandatory use of masks in some places and the use of vaccine passports at higher-risk venues and mass gatherings.

The newspaper says that in a memo marked “official – sensitive”, the agency stated that it was urgently seeking the views of council chief executives and leaders to be fed directly into the Cabinet Office. “This is a tight turnaround as you might appreciate and so a response by close of play would be really helpful,” it states.

A UKHSA spokesperson is quoted as saying it would not comment on leaks, adding: “It is part of UKHSA’s role to provide advice to the government on the ongoing response to the pandemic.”

A government spokesperson is reported to have said: “We are monitoring all the data closely, and the prime minister has been clear that it does not yet show that plan B is necessary. But it is ready should we need to act to avoid a rise in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.”