BORIS Johnson has been branded “grossly irresponsible" after visiting a Scottish laboratory despite knowing there was a coronavirus outbreak at the site.

The Prime Minister, during his highly criticised one-day trip north to “save the Union”, stopped in at bitotech firm Valneva’s vaccine production facility in Livingston.

However, the Daily Record has reported that just 24 hours previously a public health investigation identified 14 Covid-19 cases at the lab.

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NHS Lothian confirmed an incident management team was called to the site and found cases dating back to January 16, with staff sent home to self-isolate.

Valneva’s chief financial officer, David Lawrence, told the Record that Downing Street had been informed of the outbreak.

Photographs from the day Johnson arrived show him using equipment in the lab while wearing a mask. However, the mask was lowered when he was interviewed by the press.

SNP MSP George Adam commented: “These actions are grossly irresponsible. Boris Johnson and his advisers are playing political games with people’s lives. The company has done nothing wrong but it beggars belief that No10 would continue with this visit after being told in advance there was a Covid outbreak.”

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Lawrence denied that there were any concerns about the visit, and insisted Number 10 was “comfortable” with the plan. “Our team had approved all the aspects of his visit from a safety perspective and his visit was Covid-compliant,” he stated.

The Valneva chief said more than 100 staff are based at the site but not all work there at the same time.

The National: Boris Johnson using equipment at the Valneva siteBoris Johnson using equipment at the Valneva site

He added: “If we felt there was any risk either to visitors or to the site, we wouldn’t have gone ahead [with the visit].”

A UK Government spokesperson commented: “The visit to the Valneva Livingston plant was Covid-compliant. Valneva had approved all aspects of the visit from a safety perspective and the site director is comfortable that no risks were taken."

It is understood no officials are self-isolating as a result of the trip.

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay said it was “absolutely extraordinary” Johnson embarked on the “politically motivated PR visit” having learned there was an outbreak.

The National: Labour MSP Neil Findlay

He added: “This is beyond reckless and verges on being criminally irresponsible.

“What credibility does Johnson now have in lecturing others to stay at home while he flagrantly disregards public health advice?”

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Ahead of the Prime Minister’s trip north, Nicola Sturgeon had raised concerns, questioning whether it was strictly “essential”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson added: “Throughout the current lockdown we’ve been very clear about the need to avoid non-essential travel and adhere to stay-at-home guidance to reduce virus transmission.”

The UK Government recently announced it had ordered 100 million doses of the Valneva jag, though it is yet to be approved.

Tory ministers have also retained options over a further 90m doses for supply between 2023 and 2025.