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CONNECT THE WORLD
U.K. Couple Exposed to Deadly Soviet-Era Chemical Weapon; Monsoon Rains Threaten Thai Cave Rescue Effort; What is Novichok? Aired 11-12p ET
Aired July 5, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Welcome, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, 7:00 in the evening here, 4:00
in afternoon in London.
And one big question is answered but many others remain about the mysterious poisoning of a British couple. Now authorities are demanding
that Russia step forward with an explanation.
Now here's the deal. British police say there's no evidence that Charley Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were specifically targeted over the weekend in
Amesbury. But tests show they were poisoned by the same type of nerve agent used to attack a former Russian spy and his daughter a few months
Well, the incidents happened just kilometers apart. And it is still unclear whether the Novichok came from the exact same batch. Britain's
home secretary issued this warning to Moscow earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAJID JAVID, BRITISH HOME SECRETARY: It is the actions of the Russian government that this -- that continue to undermine our security and that of
the international community.
It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets or for our streets, our parks, our towns to be dumping
grounds for poison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: CNN Nina dos Santos is outside Parliament in London where Sajid Javid just made those remarks. And we're also joined by Matthew Chance in
Let's get to you, Nina, first, before we move on to Moscow with these allegations, if you like.
What more do you we know at this point?
We seem to know very little aside from the fact that this was poisoning, it seems, by Novichok, correct?
NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: That's right. And also that's quite interesting, because, Becky, remember that the Skripals' case, even
though that poisoning happened on March the 4th, still remains something that has so many questions that are answered.
That is a case that is still very much ongoing, an investigation that is still taking up a number of police manhours. So the interesting bit about
this is that when it comes to the U.K. authorities being not that much further forward on the Skripal case, from where they were a few months ago,
when they identified it as Novichok, now we do know that this particular poisoning is Novichok.
We don't know whether it was the same batch. We don't know whether it was something that was left over from somebody who tried to poison the Skripals
on March the 4th.
That seems to be the working hypothesis, because the security minister, Ben Wallace (ph), has been granting interviews to U.K. media outlets, saying
that it seems as though the strongest line of inquiry at this point may well be that this may have been the remnants of the substance that was used
on the Skripals.
But of course, toxicology results will take some time to come in on that. You can bet it's a serious line of inquiry. In the meantime, the police
investigation has been expanded in Amesbury. We know that 100 members of the counterterrorism division, the Metropolitan Police have headed to
Amesbury to work with the local Wiltshire police force there.
So this remains very much a live investigation and a widespread investigation, one that does have some urgency, though, again is linked to
so many of those unanswered questions that came up already on March the 4th, when Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found in very similar conditions
just eight miles away from Amesbury -- Becky.
ANDERSON: Matthew, what's been the response in Moscow or from Moscow to the warning from the British home secretary that we just heard?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the response has been the one that we've heard time and again from Russia, which is
categorical denial when it comes to any allegations about malign activities that it's accused of carrying out around the world.
Specifically involvement with Novichok and with the poisoning of the Skripals and this latest Novichok poisoning in the United Kingdom as well.
The Kremlin saying it's nothing to do with them, also making the point that the Russians have offered to launch a joint investigation with the British
That offer has been rejected repeatedly by Britain, not least because Britain doesn't want to share its secret intelligence that it says it's
gathered about this with the -- with the Russians.
There's also been a sort of direct, you know, criticism of the British government by the Russian foreign ministry, the spokeswoman for the Russian
foreign ministry, saying this, "Stop playing games with poisonous chemical substances."
That was her direct message to Theresa May, the British prime minister. So the Russians are saying this is nothing to do with us, the responsibility
CHANCE: -- this lies at the feet of the British authorities.
ANDERSON: Nina, understandably a lot of concern from residents in Salisbury and around the area. Certainly this time yesterday, authorities
had said that there was no concern or there should be no concern to the wider public.
Does that stand?
I mean just how worried should people be at this point?
DOS SANTOS: So obviously Sajid Javid, when he took to the floor of the House of Commons a few hours ago, the first thing he was keen to state was
that there is no significant risk to public safety in the immediate vicinity of the area.
Then again, there's going to be people who are saying, originally the Salisbury site was decontaminated months ago.
So how exactly did this particular substance come to interact with these two individuals who have been poisoned by it?
Was it taken out of the immediate vicinity that was decontaminated to another town like Amesbury?
At this point they just don't know. Obviously what we should point out, on a positive note, is that they've been through this before. So the same
public health advice applies to those people who believe they've interacted with this couple. Take your clothes off, the clothes that you had at the
time, burn them, dispose of them in some way, anything that you think may have come into contact with anything suspicious. Wipe it down with baby
cloths to decontaminate stuff.
Also when it comes to the prognosis for these two individuals, they are recovering in the same hospital that Sergei and Yulia Skripal recovered in.
They survived their attack. So some experts are saying that, when it comes to the possible outcomes here, they do better than they may well have been
back on March the 4th, when the U.K. was first confronted with the threat of a nerve agent poisoning like Novichok on its own soil, Becky.
But as I said, it's still early days and this is a big jigsaw puzzle that is gradually being pieced together moment by moment and month by month. In
fact, later on this hour, expecting perhaps to hear more lines of inquiry from the police there in Amesbury. And we'll bring them to our viewers at
ANDERSON: To both of you in London and in Moscow, thank you.
Much more on this story to come. We'll talk with a chemical weapons expert, once commanded the British Chemical and Biological Counter
Terrorism Forces with more on what he has, on what is -- it seems to be a mystery at present there in Amesbury.
This hour, we can all see them and hear them but no one knows actually how to get them out. The miraculous discovery of 12 young boys and their
football coach in Thailand. Right now, an extraordinary but also grueling and complex rescue. You're looking at new pictures of them.
But let me show you in three points why saving them from that cave is so hard. One, where they are, some 4,000 meters into the cave, may be the
longest four kilometers in the world right now.
The boys under siege there from cold, black water, flooding the labyrinth of very unstable, extremely tight passages, so hard to get through, it's an
11-hour -- 11-hour round trip for even the world's best divers. So imagine this: with boys, I mean, these boys are, what, between the ages of 11 and
16 years old.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAUS RASMUSSEN, THAI CAVE DIVING ASSOCIATION: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of very narrow passages. There's lots of flow still going on. So although it
goes down, it still becomes a hazard just being in the water and going with it (INAUDIBLE).
It's hard work. It's a scary sensation if you're not used to it. Even if you are used to it, it can be very scary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, the second area right here as you can see, rescuers combing through every inch of land above the caves, hunting for any way to
help tunnel the boys down through solid rock.
And know this, they're the height of two Empire State buildings from the surface. That, you can then work out, will be extremely difficult.
One thing that's having no trouble getting in from above, huge amounts of water. Even with the monsoon rains taking it easy right now, the pumping
apparently making no real difference in getting it out. Next week, the rains set to come back hard and fast. And that is bad news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT FITZGERALD, AUSTRALIAN DIVER: Running aside the cave's catchment area for rain from all the surrounding mountains area. So rain is going to
increase the levels of water in there. We explored avenues of drilling and channeling water out. So at this point in time, obviously the water is
going to rise. But (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON: That's Mark (sic) Fitzgerald speaking.
Connecting you to everything that's going on with these boys. Right now, Asia correspondent Jonathan Miller a stone's throw from the way into these
Jonathan, we're now hearing a mental assessment concluding that the boys are not well enough to move.
How is that affecting the search operation at this point?
JONATHAN MILLER, JOURNALIST: It complicates it terribly, Becky, to be honest, because these -- when we first saw the pictures of the boys, they
seemed in relatively good health, considering their ordeal of being in this cave in the dark with no food for nine whole days.
The doctors gave them a good checking over but have concluded that two of the boys are suffering malnutrition and their coach, who apparently was
giving the boys his small bits of food that he had with him. He is in a bad condition as well. So they've been feeding them these high-protein
foods and holding to build up their strength.
The problem they've got, as you well explained, the rains are coming and the Thai meteorological department is forecasting the next deluge of
monsoon rain -- and when it comes, it is torrential -- for this weekend, on Saturday.
So they've got one day's window left. Now if they're going to try to attempt to get them out, it will still involve, as you say, these boys
coming out through partially submerged passageway. They've designed these special full-face scuba masks for them.
But you know, if it takes six hours for a diver to get out, you know, with experience operating in caves like this -- it's incredibly claustrophobic,
there are narrow passageways to squeeze down -- how much more difficult will it be to take these weakened children out?
But the time window is closing fast and if they don't get them out now, they're going to have a long wait down below, four months until the monsoon
ANDERSON: It's almost impossible for any of us, really, to get our heads around what it's like to be down there. I know one person, who will know
better than most, is one of those miners from Chile, trapped under the Earth for more than two months and eight years ago.
You were on that story. We spoke about it earlier on this week. He sent out this message to those young boys.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I have no doubt that, if we pray, I have no doubt that if the government of that country does everything and
carries out what is humanly possible, this rescue will be a success. May God bless you and we will be praying now for each one of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Words from Chile there, Jonathan, help from around the world as we know.
Just give us a sense of the scope of how many people are fighting to save them and the conditions they're fighting against.
I mean, I know that you are, quite literally, standing in mud right now, correct?
MILLER: Yes. That is, it's about four inches of orange liquid mud. And once the rains start heavily again, it will just be a swamp. And so, yes,
it is really hard. It was wonderful to hear the voice of the wonderful Super Mario, as we called him back in the days, when he was being rescued.
He has that tremendous strength of personality.
And he sent that message to encourage the boys here and said he even wants to come here. But there are a lot of people from all over the world.
There are American search and rescue experts sent in from Okinawa and Japan.
There's Australians, there's the Brits, they came in and found the boys in the cave, those cave divers. There are many nationalities involved. It's
not that they don't have the expert helps.
I think one thing, though, is, if they do end up getting stuck in there for a long time, they will want to try to extract them from above like they did
with those Chile miners.
So there have been forays up into this incredibly steep, forested hillside behind me. It goes up very, very steeply indeed. And up on top of that
ridgeline, there are little holes and fissures, which they are hoping could lead into the rooftop of one of the chambers and provide another means of
But there are few very viable options here. One of the problems they've heard today, we understand that oxygen levels in the chamber, in which the
boys are trapped, have fallen dangerously low, down to about 15 percent.
So they will be pushing in pure oxygen into the cave and they've prepositioned all of these tanks. The action up here behind me tonight
right now, we think, is putting in a fiberoptic cable. That would be for the event of the boys being stuck in there for months ahead so at least
they have a coms link, a video coms link with command HQ up here above.
ANDERSON: It is remarkable. You and I spoke this time last night and the night before. It was Monday night around this time that it was reported
that these kids had actually been found. And you're just describing the conditions that you've been working in over the last 72 hours. God only
knows how these kids and these divers are coping. CNN --
ANDERSON: -- speaking to some of these incredibly well-trained divers going inside these caves. Let's get back to you. Just one we heard from
earlier, telling us about how being underground for so long now may be starting to get inside the boys' heads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASMUSSEN: The kids are strong, but it also started, as we understand it, they claim that they have heard noises from the outside while they're in
there. And that means that such as dogs barking, other kids playing, chickens cooing, rooster around. There's been animal life around. There's
been something around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: They're still waiting on phone lines connected to the cave and anything to help them escape where they are in their minds, at least, I
MILLER: Yes. If you're talking about the psychological pressure, it is unthinkable what they've been through down there. They had these full nine
days completely on their own, not even knowing in the darkness whether the outside world was aware of what had happened.
It wasn't until a park ranger up here -- we're in a national park -- stumbled across their bicycles with their football boots tied to a railing
that they even realized there were people inside the cave. So in that sense they were lucky and even luckier to be found.
But it's such a nail-biting operation now, Becky. That this nation really focused on the story and there's been a massive gallery of international
media. It's a huge operation not only in terms of the search and rescue but also in terms of the coverage of this because the world is hooked on
the fate of these boys and it's getting very, very desperate.
ANDERSON: Jonathan Miller in Thailand for you. Thank you, Jonathan.
Still to come, while U.K. authorities insist there's no danger to the public, we'll ask a chemical weapons experts, just how long can Novichok
stick around and stay toxic?
ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CNN's the world with me, Becky Anderson. It's 19 minutes past 7:00, in the UAE we're broadcasting from
our Middle East hub for you. In Britain authorities --
ANDERSON: -- are still looking at various scenarios for the poisoning of a couple in Amesbury, in the southwest. It isn't clear whether the chemical
Novichok made them critically ill came from the same batch that poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a nearby town in March.
Russia has been widely blamed for that Skripal attack and still denies it. Today the Kremlin called on the U.K. to, quote, "stop playing games with
So what exactly is Novichok and how long can it stay deadly?
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon was commander of the British Chemical and Biological Counterterrorism Forces, joins us now today via Skype.
What do you make of this news, sir?
HAMISH DE BRETTON-GORDON, SECUREBIO LIMITED: First of all, the Novichok that is involved, this is a very, very toxic nerve agent, was used in a
potential attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal four months ago.
It would appear that a residue or debris from that attack has reappeared in Salisbury in the last three or four days and the two people who are
seriously in hospital have come into contact with it.
It is a very difficult-to-detect nerve age and it's very persistent. And that is the challenge facing the police and the emergency services in
Salisbury and Amesbury at the moment.
ANDERSON: There are no connections, as of yet, as far as we understand, between the Skripals and this couple.
So what would be the most plausible working assumption at this point?
BRETTON-GORDON: I think you're right there. This couple do not seem to be a couple who would be assassinated by the Russians or any other state. And
it does appear to be very bad luck, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I think the best assumption is that the assailants or assailant who attacked Colonel Skripal, when they fled the scene, fled the area,
discarded some, probably a syringe or a container that held the Novichok or precursors required to mix the Novichok and probably hoped that they would
chuck them in the Avon River that runs alongside the Queen Elizabeth Gardens and it would be out to sea before anybody knew about it.
Now that didn't happen and that container, I think, appears to have reappeared and, in some form or other, the couple have been in contact with
it. And that has poisoned them quite severely.
ANDERSON: Let's just remind our viewers of a little more about Novichok. It is even more sophisticated and dangerous than sarin, as I understand it.
The Soviet Union developing it in a secret program during the Cold War. And it has no color, as you rightly pointed out, odor or taste, which makes
it easy to transport.
Developed by the Russians to overmatch the U.K., U.S. and NATO military capabilities to defend against it. And as we've seen, it's a very potent
weapon and perhaps, as you have pointed out, the Russians feel they have a slight advantage with this. I mean, that's certainly what you have said in
the past. Just fill us in a little bit more.
BRETTON-GORDON: Well, I think if we look at chemical weapons strategically, I think because red lines have been missed, particular with
a major attack in Syria in 2013, people have thought that chemical weapons are now normalized and fair game.
Now the Russians have not only during the Soviet Union period but, recently, we understand, have been developing these Novichoks, which
overmatch NATO's defensive capabilities.
We know that NATO vastly overmatches the Russians conventionally. But for these asymmetric weapons, we don't. So I think it's not just -- it's a
huge concern that the Russians feel happy to use these chemical weapons on the soil of a NATO country.
But if there is an East-West standoff and the Cold War develops any further, this is something that they have an advantage over us.
ANDERSON: Hamish, the chief medical officer here in the U.K. has said that the threat to the population of Salisbury is low. Authorities have said
there isn't a wider public health issue here. But clearly, understandably, people are in the area, very concerned.
Should they be?
BRETTON-GORDON: No, I don't think they should be. I do agree with the chief medical officer, the threat, the wider threat is low. I think that
probably less than a quarter of an eggcup of Novichok was used in the Skripal attack.
And I think, from what was recovered on the door handle and probably what was recovered the other day from the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, that is
pretty much all of it. However, there might still be, you know, molecules left around. The challenge is --
BRETTON-GORDON: -- it's very difficult to detect. And that is the problem that the authorities are having. And I think also, the messaging has not
been great from the British government.
Our experience in Syria with the civilians that we advise there about chemical attack, we tell them every bit of information we can and they act
accordingly. In this case, the government has told people what to do but not necessarily why they're doing it. And I think that's created
But I live very close to Salisbury and I have absolutely no concerns about going anywhere at the moment. I think the threat is over. The
investigation must go forward and, hopefully, these two people will be -- will be cured in Salisbury of this desperately dangerous toxic substance.
ANDERSON: Sounds like they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we'll learn more as the days go on, I assume. Hamish de Bretton-
Gordon, thank you for insight tonight.
BRETTON-GORDON: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Well, just ahead, is Trump causing more chaos in an already volatile oil market?
That's up next.
ANDERSON: A quick recap of our top story today. British authorities say Russia has a lot of explaining to do about the poisoning of a couple in
Amesbury. Tests show they were exposed to the same nerve agent --
ANDERSON: -- used to poison a former Russian spy a few months ago. But it's still unclear if it came from the exact same batch.
Russia denies any involvement and accuses Britain of, quote, "playing games." And we're awaiting a news conference in the next couple of minutes
from the agencies who are involved in this investigation.
As we get that, of course, we will bring that to you. These are live pictures of the room. This will be a multi-agency news conference. To
Well, there are many who are unhappy with the high oil prices that we are seeing right now. Not least the U.S. president Donald Trump, who basically
wants the cartel of crude-producing countries to step in.
He tweeted, and I quote, "The OPEC monopoly must remember that gas prices are up and they are doing little to help. If anything, they are driving
prices higher, as the U.S. defends many of their members for very little dollars. This must be a two-way street."
He added in all caps, "REDUCE PRICING NOW!"
He likes an exclamation mark.
CNN's own emerging markets editor, John Defterios, is across the story, doesn't use exclamation marks, I can tell you, in his tweets, joining me
here on set.
What do you think the president's main objective is here?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, this is the fourth tweet, by the way, targeting OPEC --
ANDERSON: -- all with exclamation marks.
DEFTERIOS: -- yes, indeed, since April 20th. I think partially he's targeting his base because this is the July 4 holiday weekend. It's the
driving season in America. He has to be seen to be doing something about the higher gas prices.
But also he's looking down the road to the midterm elections, timed to when he's trying to wipe out the Iranian exports, better than 2 million barrels
a day, and saying I need to fill that supply.
Who's his target?
It's OPEC. It now has 14 members, including Iran. Now the tricky part for OPEC is that, on June 22nd, they added another million barrels a day. And
you know the Saudi position, the UAE position and the other Gulf players is, we had struggled when oil was at $30 a barrel. We mopped up the excess
capacity, cost us money.
We feel that prices between $60 and $80 a barrel are the right price. And the president clearly doesn't agree with that.
ANDERSON: I want to carry on with you, John. I'm keeping an eye on this press conference on the Novichok poisoning in Southwest England so forgive
me if I cut you off, as it were, in the middle of what will be this next answer.
Rhetoric (ph) around the key oil shopping lane, the Strait of Hormuz, what's going on there?
DEFTERIOS: What's fascinating about this is that these things do dovetail. But I'll let you pick up on the press conference.
ANDERSON: Over to this press conference.
KIER PRITCHARD, WILTSHIRE POLICE: We'll be available for short sets of questions once we finish, OK?
So, put simply, it is unbelievable that we are here today to talk about another Novichok poisoning (INAUDIBLE) that's happened across our county.
We, like our communities and the wider public, are shocked that a major incident of a similar nature has unfolded in Wiltshire.
That said, we've learned a vast amount from the first incident back in March and that has greatly informed our multiagency response in both
Amesbury and Salisbury. The communities here have shown extraordinary resilience and spirit since the events of the 4th of March this year.
But I have no doubt that they arise to the latest challenge in the same way. Of course, my thoughts are with the two individuals, who remain
critically ill following their exposure to the Novichok nerve agent.
Both for their friends and their families, this undoubtedly will be a terrifying time (INAUDIBLE).
I'd like to spend some time talking about the context of our initial response (INAUDIBLE) and some of the key decisions that my staff took,
based on the information that was available to them at that point.
As we previously stated, we were contacted by Southwest Ambulance Service, following the admission of the second patient to Salisbury District
Hospital on Saturday afternoon. Based on the information we've received, from a friend who had been with the couple all day, alongside the initial
medical (INAUDIBLE) within that day and based upon items that have been located at the address, there was a strong indication that the decline in
their health may have been connected to a contaminated batch of illegal drugs. This formed our initial working hypothesis.
So, therefore, our response, based on that hypothesis was entirely proportionate and I fully support the decisions that were taken by official
police responders and by our commanders.
(INAUDIBLE) to provide my support and to reassure them concerning --
PRITCHARD: -- their decisions that they made, which were based on the intelligence and the information that was available to them at that time.
So the following concerns from medical staff regarding the symptoms the couple were showing, samples were subsequently sent to DSTR (INAUDIBLE) for
analysis. Preliminary results of these tests came back on Tuesday evening, indicating that they may have been exposed to a nerve agent.
And this quite obviously shifted our working hypothesis. We then declared a major incident. Thereafter, as soon as we had the position, scientists
were subsequently able to confirm our fears that the couple had been exposed to a Novichok nerve agent.
Since the incident in March, we formed a close work relationship with our colleagues at the Counterterrorism Policing Network. And as such, we had
very early conversations with them regarding this incident.
As you're aware, last night, the Counterterrorism Policing Network confirmed that they will be taking (INAUDIBLE) investigation. They also
stated they are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent used in this latest incident was from the same batch used both with Sergei and
Yulia Skripal and our officer, Sergeant Nick Bailey (ph), who (INAUDIBLE) were exposed to this in March of this year.
The possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of inquiry. But it is important that we keep an open mind and we do
not speculate on this issue at this moment. So although we are not leading this investigation, (INAUDIBLE) a crucial role to play in supporting our
colleagues at the Counterterrorism Policing Network and support them as they require (INAUDIBLE).
This, of course, is a complex and fast-paced investigation. And our officers, staff and volunteers at Wiltshire Police are absolutely up to the
task in hand.
Our top priority now and always will be the safety of everybody across our communities. To that end, people in Amesbury and Salisbury will see a
significant increase in the amount of police officers and resources that we have here available.
This will include officers in protective equipment as they carry out activity across a number of our sites. This for reassurance will look
similar to the activity that we saw in Salisbury earlier in the year.
I don't want people to be alarmed by this but to be reassured. We're there to support the ongoing investigation and provide a visible policing
presence, which we hope will help to reassure the communities during this unprecedented period.
We're also there to answer any questions from the public. And I would encourage you all to speak to my officers and staff across these sites over
this period. So I would like to reiterate that we've set up two phone numbers for anyone who has concerns about this incident.
Of course, there's a free phone number of 800-092-0410. If you're unable to access free phone numbers, there's a second number which is 0-207-158-
0124. These phone lines are being jointly resourced between Wiltshire Police and colleagues from Public Health England.
To date, we've taken more than 100 calls. Please use this number if you have concerns or if you have information in relation to this incident. Our
staff are ready to receive your call.
So my colleague from Public Health England will shortly provide an update. But I want to reiterate that the public safety message that has been
provided and is supported and you will hear more about that message shortly.
Further to that message, there is helpful public safety advice that is available on the Public Health England website alongside our dedicated
So Wiltshire police continue to coordinate a large-scale multiagency response to this incident. We're working in support and in conjunction
with 12 of our partners across agencies, such as health, our local authorities both here and in Wiltshire and Swinton, other blue light
services, colleagues from the military and across government departments.
Locally, I fully appreciate the effect that the cordons will have on people here in our communities and across our business communities. Please let me
reassure you, my offices, staff, partner agencies and our colleagues from the Counterterrorism Policing Network will do all that we can to progress
this investigation as soon as we're able to, in order that we can help to return the communities here in Amesbury and in Salisbury back to a position
PRITCHARD: -- normality. You now will start to see protective barriers being put up to replace some of the cordons that we have locally.
Again, I want to reassure you, this is following a request from our counterterrorism colleagues. And it's simply to allow police officers and
partners the space to carry out their investigation. Do not be alarmed by those. Again, I would ask the public to respect the cordons that are in
Throughout this, we will be doing all that we can to update the public on any developments. But I need to reemphasize to you, it's a complex and
developing incident and it's difficult to know, to clarify for you, when exactly those updates will be known.
So finally, as stated, the Counterterrorism Policing Network have already suggested but I want to reiterate their appeal. Their appeal is for any
persons with any information at all to make contact with us immediately, through those help line numbers that I provided or directly in to the
police. I will now hand over to my colleague from Public Health England, Debbie.
DEBBIE STARK, PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND: Thank you.
So good afternoon, my name is Debbie Stark and I'm the deputy center director for Public Health England in the southwest. Our role in this
incident is to provide advice to the police, Wiltshire Council, national government and the public about all aspects concerning people's health.
I would like to start off by reiterating that, based on current evidence, the risk to the general public, a result of this incident, remains low. I
understand that people in Amesbury and Salisbury and those who recently visited the area will be concerned about this incident.
I would, however, like to reassure you that it is safe to continue with your daily business. Obviously, incidents like this one are very rare. We
would like to reassure you that, when any health protection incident occurs, we put in place well-established response plans and follow clear
processes to ensure we keep the community safe.
We evaluate the information that we have and assess the risk to the public constantly based on what we know. It is by using this information that we
can confidently advise that the risk to the public in Salisbury and Amesbury remains low.
As a highly precautionary measure, however, we are advising that anyone who may have been in any of the areas that are now cordoned off from 10:00 pm
on Friday evening, last Friday evening, could take a number of steps.
So wash the clothing that they were wearing in an ordinary washing machine using regular detergent at the temperature recommended for those items of
clothing. This will not damage the washing machine.
Wipe any personal items, such as phones, laptops, other electronic items, with cleansing or baby wipes and dispose of those wipes in the bin. And
that's just ordinary domestic waste disposal. If your items are dry clean only, you should keep them double-bagged and securely fastened and further
details will follow.
You should thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after cleaning any items. You do not need to seek advice from a health professional
unless you are experiencing symptoms. Those people from the area that feel they are experiencing symptoms should follow the normal routes and ring NHS
And as the chief medical officer said yesterday, the public should always be careful of picking up dangerous or unknown objects. As has been
mentioned, areas of Salisbury that have already been cleaned as part of the previous incident and which are now back in use (INAUDIBLE) moltings (ph)
And I absolutely understand that the events of the past few days and the appearance of further cordons in Salisbury and Amesbury will be a cause for
concern. I would like to reassure you that we are working together, alongside national and local partners, to ensure that the public remain
safe and we keep our advice under review and up to date.
I would like to pass on now to my colleague (INAUDIBLE).
CARA CHARLES-BARKS, SALISBURY DISTRICT HOSPITAL: Hello, my name is Cara Charles-Barks and I'm the chief executive of Salisbury district.
As you've heard, with the two patients on Saturday and have been treating them at the hospital ever since. Both of these patients remain in critical
condition, having been exposed to a nerve agent, they are clearly acutely unwell.
We will continue to keep you updated on the condition of all these individuals while respecting the privacy to which they and all our patients
We have seen other members of the public who have come to the hospital with concerns about their health following this --
CHARLES-BARKS: -- incident. And we have carried out appropriate tests and none of these individuals have needed treatment.
Given the events in March, we at Salisbury District Hospital have developed a wealth of knowledge and experience in treating those exposed to nerve
agents. This is meant that we can give these patients the expert care that they need while securing the safety of our staff, our other patients and
visitors to the hospital.
I want to reiterate that the hospital remains completely open and operating as normal. If you have an appointment, you should continue to come to the
hospital unless are you otherwise informed.
Today marks the 70th birthday of the NHS. And as we mark this historic event, we pay tribute to the millions of staff who have worked tirelessly,
providing amazing care to people across this country every single day since 1948.
And I want to pay special tribute to the staff at Salisbury District Hospital. Yet again, they've found themselves treating patients in the
most extraordinary of circumstances. Despite these challenges, they've given these patients the same level of outstanding care we strive to give
all our patients.
This is as true for clinical staff as for those working hard behind the scenes. On our 70th birthday, the treatment of these patients at Salisbury
District Hospital is a shining example of the world-leading care provided by our own NHS.
This hospital has been a vital part of the community for many years. And I, like my colleagues, want to thank the public for their support that
they've shown us during this time. Thank you.
ALISTAIR CUNNINGHAM, WILTSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL: Thank you, Kara.
Good afternoon. My name is Alistair Cunningham, I'm chair of the Salisbury Recovery Core main group. For the past four months, we've been supporting
Salisbury, particularly the local community and businesses.
The message remains clear: as our public health partners have stated, the risk to the public is low. And as we've heard, they will keep this
assessment under constant review as further information becomes available.
Our role right now is to provide support to our partners as needed and to be the link between central government and the local communities affected
in both Salisbury and Amesbury.
There has been and will continue to be an impact on businesses and footfall in Amesbury town center and in Salisbury city center. We'll continue to
provide support to those affected, as we have done since the first incident in March.
I would urge any business who are concerned about the impact of this recent incident to contact the Swinton and Wiltshire growth hub via website of
that name, on -- or call 0-122-540-2096. And they will receive advice and support.
We're also supporting residents affected by this latest incident, including those who need to be rehoused temporarily. This is a precautionary
Wiltshire Council is meeting with residents to offer help and support. And we will continue to do this and all we can to assist the community and
local residents during this extraordinary time.
If any residents have concerns, they should call the public information lines that Kara has mentioned, and I'll repeat the numbers, that's 0-800-
092-0410 or 0-207-158-0124. The lines are currently open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm but we're looking to extend these in the near future.
The recovery program following the first incident is continuing. And four sites have been signed off as clean and safe for use. This has been done
by the government's Decontamination Science Advisory Group.
The remaining sites have currently been cleaned by specialist teams overseen by DEFRA (ph), with the exception of the Skripals' residence,
which remains under police investigation.
While strong working assumption is the couple came into contact with the nerve agent in a different location, to the sites which were part of the
original investigation, all the sites have been decontaminated following the previous incident are safe.
We are holding a meeting with this at the Salisbury area board tonight at 7 o'clock in city hall in Salisbury. A panel of partners involved in this
recent incident will update the local community and answers will be available to any questions residents and businesses. Thank you. And I'll
hand it back to Kara.
PRITCHARD: (INAUDIBLE) there's an opportunity for some questions.
NIC ROBERTSON(?), CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Categorically, unequivocally (INAUDIBLE) evidence (INAUDIBLE) --
ROBERTSON(?): -- undiscovered since the attack of the Skripals in March?
PRITCHARD: Thank you. I'll start with that. And clearly what we are now working alongside with our colleagues from the Counterterrorism Network,
they are hugely competent.
I have every degree of confidence in their professionalism and their ability to understand the chronology of events. At this stage, it's far
too early for us to go into any further information and detail.
But the chronology of events is clearly a key line of inquiry for our colleagues within the counterterrorism network.
Alistair, did you have anything further?
CUNNINGHAM: No, (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) just to follow that up, does that mean that you're now expanding the search area for decontamination sites with this
PRITCHARD: I think what we've been clear with saying so far is, based upon the areas we think our new two patients have been to, we have operated
within the best scientific and public health advice to be able to identify those locations and put some control around those locations.
So that's why we are now seeing several of the areas in both Salisbury and Amesbury that are under protective guard under the control of the
counterterrorism network but supported by Wiltshire police.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to clean those sites in the same what (INAUDIBLE)?
PRITCHARD: We are still in the response phase of the major incident. We are working closely alongside colleagues from Wiltshire local authority,
who will be leading the recovery phase, and clearly the decontamination aspect of the major incident would fall under the remit of the recovery
group -- Alistair.
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. The process to date has been around testing sites, cleaning sites, (INAUDIBLE) until such time as (INAUDIBLE), which is, you
know, no (INAUDIBLE), no (INAUDIBLE).
And that's when (INAUDIBLE). We have a process, once they come back to us from government, of looking at the evidence and cross-referencing with our
director of public health, who actually goes to the (INAUDIBLE) community itself and observes to make sure that everything is (INAUDIBLE) we hand
those sites back to the owners of the sites. So we've got a process that is very vigorous, very robust and is around ensuring that the sites are
cleaned. (INAUDIBLE) and that's the process and the problem (ph) with these sites.
PRITCHARD: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks very difficult for you (INAUDIBLE) all sitting here, reassuring members of the public not to worry when here we've had two
members of the public poisoned by suspected Novichok.
Is this a failure of your attempts to clean up after the first Novichok?
PRITCHARD: Well, no, (INAUDIBLE).
CUNNINGHAM: No, and I think the working assumption which I mentioned is that these (INAUDIBLE) in terms of becoming ill, being poisoned was not
associated with any of the sites in the previous investigation.
So that's why the investigation is targeting other sites and tracking their movement. We have to let that investigation run its course. But I think,
very clearly, those sites that have been cleaned are clean and remain clean. So we are looking at the investigation, piecing together where
those people went, how they got and -- got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, if you accept that, from a member of the public's point of view, it is almost irrelevant that it's not connected to the first
set of sites, it was (INAUDIBLE) the public. Two people found it and they're now desperately ill in hospital. Is it irrelevant, whether it's
connected to a previous investigation?
In fact, it's occurred.
CUNNINGHAM: It has occurred. It is hugely regrettable. This incident is unprecedented in terms of, you know, the targeting of the Skripals
We can only follow the evidence, follow the scientific advice available. If we stray from following the advice and the intelligence coming out from
the investigation, we're into a world where we have no bounds.
So the work being done, I'm satisfied that the specialists and our work with the specialists over a long period of time are doing an incredibly
difficult job in a difficult circumstance.
And we are in a real-world situation. But I'll come back to the point that we are going to cover the evidence and the best advice, based on that
evidence. And this investigation will enable us to understand how they were affected and then, obviously, that enables us to then follow through
with deep decontamination of those sites.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Have you found at this stage a source of the contaminant or any paraphernalia associated with it?
PRITCHARD: That's (INAUDIBLE) sits in the primacy of the counterterrorism network. Their search strategy and their investigation is clearly looking
to identify the source of the contaminants. So further information --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can say they do not, I don't find it or --
PRITCHARD: I think they are questions that would be best raised with the counterterrorism network at this stage. We have controlled the areas and
we are allowing the counterterrorism network to continue with their investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
PRITCHARD: It's similar to the last response. We have identified the areas where we think the two patients, who have now fallen gravely ill,
visited prior to their declining health.
Our responsibility was to, alongside the public health support and the scientific support, identify those locations, control those locations and
enable now the counterterrorism network to systematically work through those things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE). That's one of the things (INAUDIBLE) people worry that they might touch the thing that this couple might have
touched and (INAUDIBLE).
What kind of reassurance for them? (INAUDIBLE).
STARK: Want me to take that one?
So obviously, I completely understand why people would be anxious. But I would like to remind you that we're working on the best information that we
We haven't had any members of the public that have presented with symptoms and we have worked with police to track the movements of the two
individuals and cordon off the areas that we think are of the most interest.
So we've taken steps to reduce any risks to the public. I would just reiterate, we haven't had anybody else present with symptoms that require
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You (INAUDIBLE) you mentioned (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) seen pictures of hazmat suits (INAUDIBLE). (INAUDIBLE) you say your
PRITCHARD: Yes, the hypothesis that I described was one that related to a potential contaminated source of illegal drugs, illicit drugs, essentially
cocaine or heroin. Based upon the advice we were given from the clinician in the hospital, following the condition of the patients, based upon the
information provided by the associates and friends of the two patients and the details of substances, paraphernalia that was found inside the
location, which of course, I do not want to go into, the working hypothesis from the officers at that time was that they were dealing with potential
contaminated source of illicit drug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that's usual (INAUDIBLE)?
PRITCHARD: I don't believe the police officers were wearing hazmat suits at that stage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the container used to deliver the Novichok in the original attack (INAUDIBLE)?
PRITCHARD: Again, that's information that would be with the counterterrorism network. It's clearly part of their inquiry, to try to
establish the entire chronology of the first incident and to draw any comparisons, if there are any comparisons, to this latest incident.
So again, that is information that will be resting with the counterterrorism network.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you (INAUDIBLE) Novichok (INAUDIBLE) in the Salisbury and surrounding areas, although you never know that?
PRITCHARD: Well, I think we've heard -- we have based the response phase and the recovery phase, based on the very best information, intelligence
and advice that we've been given from our colleagues at Public Health and our science information.
And that has enabled us to control a number of our locations, some of which are still under control of police and other colleagues, working through the
recovery center. So we can only operate with the information that we have available to us.
Alistair, is there anything more you want to --
CUNNINGHAM: No, I think the only other thing to say, (INAUDIBLE) scientists that the substance degrades in the natural environment over
time. So we are focusing on the investigative work being undertaken, which will identify those sites we need to concentrate on.
So it isn't we're looking at that (INAUDIBLE) approach to Salisbury. This will be (INAUDIBLE) with the previous investigation and the decontamination
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's really clear that this is an unprecedented incident. This is the second unprecedented incident. It will raise a huge
level of public uncertainty and anxiety.
PRITCHARD: For many of us who are residents in the county, for those that are responding to this across the police department and other agencies. So
we're working extremely hard to try to understand the circumstances, the chronology. But what we are trying to do is demonstrate the support, the
control that we have across the partnership agencies to protect areas, fundamentally to protect the public and provide some reassurance to members
of the community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).