BORIS Johnson was accused of putting publicity before public health after he visited a Livingston vaccine laboratory at the centre of a West Lothian Covid outbreak. 

According to the Daily Record, a public health probe at the Valeneva site uncovered 14 coronavirus cases – about one in eight of the workforce.

READ MORE: PMQs: Boris Johnson is happy to play whack-a-mole with new variants

The firm’s chief financial officer, David Lawrence, said Downing Street had been informed ahead of the Tory chief’s trip last Thursday.

He told the paper: “They were made aware we’d had some reported cases and had implemented our control procedures.”

However, in the Commons on Wednesday, Johnson said that wasn’t true and "nobody raised that issue with me before or since".

The Prime Minister’s flying visit to Scotland last week was controversial, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon questioning whether it was “genuinely essential”. 

Speaking on Wednesday during Prime Minister's Questions, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Commons that the paper's revelation proved that the trip was an “absolutely shocking error of judgment.”

“Anyone can see that his campaign trip to Scotland was utterly, utterly reckless,” he added.

Blackford said that Number 10 knew the visit posed a risk, but that “the Prime Minister put politics before public health. Why be so reckless?”

The National:

Johnson told Blackford: "I can think 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 defeat the pandemic, and it was fantastic to talk to them."

READ MORE: Boris Johnson visited Valneva vaccine lab despite being warned of Covid outbreak

In a statement following the exchange the company insisted the visit was “covid compliant”.

The firm’s spokesperson said: "Valneva is absolutely committed to safeguarding the health of our employees. A number of coronavirus cases were reported among staff at Valneva's Livingston, Scotland, site in January.

"As Covid-19 control procedures were in place, those staff who may have been affected were identified and, as a precaution and in line with Government regulations, have been self-isolating. In some cases the period of self-isolation is already complete.

"We have established that the origin of the infection was community-acquired. We do not expect any impact on our plans and timelines for the development and production of our Covid-19 vaccine resulting from the reported cases.

"We have been in close dialogue with NHS Lothian, Health Protection Scotland as well as the Health and Safety Executive to assess and manage the situation.

"The Prime Minister's visit was Covid-compliant. Our team had approved all aspects of his visit from a safety perspective and the site director is comfortable that no risks were taken."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The Prime Minister routinely visits communities and businesses across all parts of the UK, and this work forms a key part of his role.

"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."

The Valneva jab has not been approved yet for use but earlier this week, the UK Government ordered an extra 40 million doses - taking total orders of the vaccine up to 100 million. 

Ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit, Sturgeon warned that it could hurt public health messaging urging people to stay at home. 

Sturgeon said: “People like me and Boris Johnson have to be in work, for reasons I think most people can understand, but we don’t have to travel across the UK. Is that really essential right now? We have a duty to lead by example, and if we are going to suggest that we don’t take these rules as seriously as we should it gets harder to convince other people.”

On the day of the Valneva visit, Johnson tweeted: “It’s brilliant that @ValnevaSE is starting the large-scale manufacture of its potential vaccine, creating 100 high-skilled jobs at their Livingston facility.”

NHS Lothian has confirmed an incident management team (IMT) intervention was staged last Wednesday. 14 positive cases were identified, dating back to January 16.

Earlier, Johnson was pushed on why the government were only introducing a limited mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers entering England from high-risk countries. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer demanded the government publish evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on the policy, after reports claimed the advisors called for the quarantine of all visitor.

“So why did the prime minister choose not to do the one thing that Sage said could prevent new variants coming to the United Kingdom?” Starmer asked.

Johnson said there was no recommendation for a complete ban. “They say that travel bans should not be relied upon to stop importation of new variants,” he said, calling the border policies “one of the toughest regimes in the world”.

Starmer said the scramble to contain the spread of the variant identified in South Africa was proof the current measures were leaky. “If they were working, the variant wouldn’t be in the country, the single biggest threat to the vaccine system.

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said she would bring in a full quarantine for all travellers entering Scotland.