Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended visiting a Scottish vaccine production plant that had been hit by a Covid-19 outbreak.
Mr Johnson went to Valneva, in Livingston, last Thursday during a controversial trip north.
It was revealed this morning the visit came just 24 hours after a public health probe at the site uncovered 14 coronavirus cases – about one in eight of the workforce.
Valneva’s chief financial officer, David Lawrence, said Downing Street had received advance warning about about the outbreak – prompting furious reaction from MPs.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford branded Mr Johnson “irresponsible” and demanded to know why he went ahead with the visit at prime minister’s questions.
He said: “Last week, we told the prime minister it was wrong for him to visit Scotland in the middle of a pandemic.
“We told him it was a non-essential visit.
“There are serious questions to answer: did the prime minister and his advisers know about the Covid outbreak, when did they know and when did the prime minister make the irresponsible decision to go ahead with what was a PR stunt?
‘Fantastic’ to meet scientists
Mr Johnson responded: “I can think of few things more important than to see the rollout of the vaccination programme across this country, to encourage the wonderful companies who are doing great work across the whole of Scotland to see the commitment of those Scottish scientists to helping us all to defeat the pandemic.
“It was fantastic to talk to them.”
Mr Blackford shot back: “What an absolute shambles. He’s gone to a plant where there was a Covid outbreak.
“He can’t just explain away this absolutely shocking error of judgement, anyone can see that his campaign trip to Scotland was utterly, utterly reckless.”
He added: “The prime minister put politics before public health, why be so reckless?”
Mr Johnson responded by talking about the benefits of the vaccine, before adding: “Nobody raised that issue with me, before or since”.
Number 10 later defended the visit, saying it was “Covid secure”.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: “All of the PM’s visits are conducted in a Covid secure way, we always do everything we can to ensure the risk is absolutely minimised as much as it can be.”
Asked why Mr Johnson hadn’t been informed about the Covid outbreak, despite Number 10 officials knowing, the spokesman added: “Valneva made us aware that some Covid cases had previously been reported, but as I say, I would point to the site director who said that if there would have been any risk at all to either visitors or to the site they wouldn’t have allowed the visit to go ahead.”
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