UK PM defends visit to vaccine lab with Covid cases

UK PM defends visit to vaccine lab with Covid cases
UK PM defends visit to vaccine lab with Covid cases

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson made no apologies, saying he had a 'fantastic time' at the plant. — Geoff Pugh/Pool via Reuters

EDINBURGH, Feb 3 — UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was today accused of disregarding public safety by visiting a vaccines laboratory that had an outbreak of Covid cases.

Johnson toured the Valneva facility in central Scotland last week, but ran into trouble with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested the trip was not essential under lockdown rules.

Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) colleague Ian Blackford took up the case again in parliament in London, after the Daily Record newspaper said the lab had a cluster of cases before the visit.

Blackford accused Johnson of recklessly and irresponsibly disregarding guidelines and of putting “politics before public health”.

But Johnson made no apologies, saying he had a “fantastic time” at the plant, insisting he was not aware of the issue before or after the January 28 visit.

“It is my job to visit every part of this country, nothing and no one is going to stop me and I am very, very proud of the record of the Government in rolling out the vaccine,” he added.

Johnson’s Scotland visit was politically controversial, with the SNP riding high in Scotland on the back of public support for Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

That has boosted backing for her call to hold a second referendum on independence, which Johnson has repeatedly refused to grant.

Valneva said that Johnson’s visit was “Covid-compliant” and that the site’s director was “comfortable that no risks were taken”.

“A number of coronavirus cases were reported among staff at Valneva’s Livingston, Scotland site in January,” the company said in a statement.

“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.”

Valneva said it had 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,” it added. — AFP

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