Britain holds emergency cabinet meeting on new nerve agent case

Vastavam web: Britain is holding an emergency cabinet meeting on today over a couple who were left critically ill after being exposed to the same nerve agent used on a former Russian spy earlier this year.Home Secretary Sajid Javid will be chairing the talks in London, as counter-terrorism police lead an investigation into the incident in Amesbury, a village in southwest England.The village is close to the city of Salisbury, where former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench on March 4 in an incident that sparked a diplomatic crisis with Russia.Police on Wednesday said that tests at Britain’s Porton Down defence laboratory had confirmed that the substance was Novichok, which Britain says is a Soviet-made military grade nerve agent.

“The priority for the investigation team now is to establish how these two people have come into contact with this nerve agent,” Basu said.”We have no idea what may have contained the nerve agent at this time,” he said, urging members of the public not to pick anything up if they did not know what it was.Basu said there was no evidence to suggest that the man and the woman, named locally as Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, “were targeted in any way”.Basu said there was no evidence the man and the woman had “recently visited any of the sites that were decontaminated” after the poisoning of the Skripals.Police had initially assumed that the two had consumed contaminated drugs.

But samples from both patients were sent to Porton Down on Monday “due to concern over the symptoms the man and woman were displaying,” Basu said.Both are still in a critical condition and are at Salisbury District Hospital the same facility where the Skripals were treated.Local man Sam Hobson, 29, told AFP he was a friend of the pair and said he saw the man fall ill.In Salisbury, local residents said they were “shocked” that their quiet area was again hitting the headlines.

“I was shocked to hear that something had happened so soon after the last contamination scare,” Patrick Hillman, 70, told AFP.The Skripal poisoning “really affected business and life in general in Salisbury” in recent months, he said.Police called for calm but also said that anyone who had visited any of the five sites that the man and the woman went to on Friday and Saturday should wash clothing worn at the time and wipe down personal items.The sites, which have now been cordoned off, are a park and a homeless hostel in Salisbury, as well as a pharmacy, a church and the house in Amesbury.

Local resident Natalie Smyth, 27, told AFP she saw fire engines and ambulances arrive at the house on Saturday.”It is so strange, it is such a quiet place,” she said, indicating that the emergency services personnel were wearing protective suits.The police said local residents should expect to see officers in protective suits at “a number of sites” in the coming days.Skripal, 67, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, who was visiting from Moscow, were treated for an extended period of time before being released from hospital.The police said they suspected the nerve agent may have been smeared on a front door handle in liquid form.