UK official: Small traces of contamination found in spy case

LONDON — British health authorities said Sunday that small traces of contamination have been found in a restaurant and a pub in the English city of Salisbury, after a Russian ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent.

The risk to public health remains low but there are concerns that the risk could build if people are repeatedly exposed to tiny trace quantities of the nerve agent, Dr. Jenny Harries of Public Health England told a news conference.

She said that people who were in the restaurant and pub on March 4 and March 5 should take “simple” precautions by washing their clothes and taking other measures to protect their skin from repeated exposure.

“This is just very practical advice” that should affect only a few hundred people, she said, adding that there is no proof people actually have trace elements of the nerve agent on their clothes.

Harries said the announcement of these precautions doesn’t mean the risk level to the public has been raised.

She was speaking shortly after Public Health England issued a statement with advice and precautions that should be taken. It was the first time British officials have urged the public to take specific actions as a result of the attack.

She deflected questions about why it took a week for health authorities to come out with the precautionary advice.

“It’s really important to understand the general public should not be concerned,” she said. “There is, on the evidence currently, a very low risk.”

Hospital officials in Salisbury also said there is no evidence of a wider risk beyond the three people hospitalized since the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Ex-spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia reportedly ate at a Zizzi restaurant before falling critically ill. A British police detective is also hospitalized in serious condition.

Health authorities also said contamination traces were found at The Mill pub.

“While there is no immediate health risk to anyone who may have been in either of these locations, it is possible, but unlikely, that any of the substance which has come into contact with clothing or belongings could still be present in minute amounts and therefore contaminate your skin,” the statement from Public Health England said. “Over time, repeated skin contact with contaminated items may pose a small risk to health.”

The health agency added that any clothing should be washed in “an ordinary washing machine using your regular detergent at the temperature recommended for the clothing.”

It also said to “wipe personal items such as phones, handbags and other electronic items with cleansing or baby wipes and dispose of the wipes in the bin.”

The government, meanwhile, hasn’t revealed what nerve agent was used in the attack.

A large-scale police investigation is underway in Salisbury as forensics experts wearing protective gear search for clues. Among the sites they are searching are the Zizzi restaurant, which is closed to the public, and the gravesites where Skripal’s wife and son are buried. Skripal’s house has also been extensively searched for clues and traces of the nerve agent.

Authorities haven’t revealed how or where the Skripals were exposed to the nerve agent. It’s not known if it happened in a restaurant, a pub, Skripal’s house or elsewhere.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Saturday evening it is still “too early” to determine who is to blame for the attack. Senior government officials have vowed to respond robustly if the Russian government is found to be responsible.

Rudd said more than 250 counterterrorism officers are on the scene evaluating more than 240 pieces of evidence and interviewing about 200 witnesses.

They are backed by roughly 180 military personnel providing logistical support, including the removal of ambulances feared to possibly be contaminated by the nerve agent.

Police are looking for precise clues to what sickened Skripal, 66, a Russian ex-military intelligence specialist who in 2006 was convicted in Russia of spying for Britain, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.

Investigators hope they can pinpoint where the nerve agent was made, which could help determine who was behind the attack.

Skripal was imprisoned inside Russia until he was freed in a 2010 spy swap and settled in England. He had stayed out of the public eye since then.

The father and daughter were found unconscious March 4 on a bench in Salisbury. Skripal lived in the town, located 90 miles (140 kilometres) southwest of London.

Authorities haven’t said whether they expect the pair to recover.

Some British lawmakers have asked for a high-level investigation of a string of serious mishaps involving former Russia spies and foes of Russian President Vladimir Putin who have taken up residence in Britain.

Just Posted

Amanda Lindhout kidnapper sentenced to 15 years in prison

OTTAWA — A Somalian man found guilty in the kidnapping of Amanda… Continue reading

Police suspect fire at mosque in Alberta town was deliberately set

EDSON, Alta. — RCMP in Alberta say they’re investigating an arson at… Continue reading

Indigenous protesters in Washington declare Trans Mountain won’t be built

VANCOUVER — Cedar George-Parker remembers the moment he decided to devote his… Continue reading

In Bill Morneau’s riding, 40 per cent of children live in poverty, report says

OTTAWA — Four in every 10 children residing in Finance Minister Bill… Continue reading

Strong quake near Osaka, Japan, kills 3, knocks over walls

TOKYO — Residents in western Japan were cleaning up debris Monday evening… Continue reading

WATCH: Central Alberta High School Soccer League champs crowned

Lindsay Thurber girls’ team and Notre Dame boys’ team won Saturday at Edgar Park Field in Red Deer

Roll out the barrels: Christo artwork floats on London lake

LONDON — The ducks, geese and hardy cold-water swimmers in London’s Hyde… Continue reading

Just For Laughs production company promotes COO Bruce Hills to president

MONTREAL — The production company behind Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival… Continue reading

Auto parts firm Magna plans electric vehicle joint ventures with Chinese company

AURORA, Ont. — Magna International Inc. says it will form two new… Continue reading

Collection featuring Group of Seven paintings donated to University of Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Margaret (Marmie) Perkins Hess spent a lifetime following her… Continue reading

5 dead as SUV chased by Border Patrol crashes in South Texas

BIG WELLS, Texas — At least five people were killed and several… Continue reading

Ramifications of a trade war: an expert look at the numbers for Canada

OTTAWA — A new analysis of escalating trade disputes involving the United… Continue reading

Deliberate spill: study launched to test crude and bitumen impact on lake life

KENORA, Ont. — Researchers were in northwestern Ontario over the weekend spilling… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month