Coronavirus outbreak at vaccine lab visited by Boris Johnson last week

Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland
·2-min read

An outbreak of coronavirus has been confirmed at the vaccine laboratory which was visited by Boris Johnson in Scotland last week.

There were a number of cases reported at the Valneva site in Livingston ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit on Thursday – an event which had already received some criticism.

Valneva’s chief financial officer David Lawrence told the Daily Record that Downing Street was informed of the outbreak ahead of the trip.

In a statement to the PA news agency, the company 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.”

Boris Johnson visit to Scotland
Mr Johnson visiting the French biotechnology laboratory in Livingston last week (Wattie Cheung/Daily Mail/PA)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the time that Mr Johnson’s visit was “not essential” during the current lockdowns, arguing that politicians have a “duty to lead by example” as the public live under strict restrictions.

But his response was to suggest people should focus on “the issues that really matter”.

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.”

Mr Johnson also visited the Lighthouse Laboratory at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital campus in Glasgow, where coronavirus tests are processed, and met troops setting up a vaccination centre in Castlemilk.