People who visited venues frequented by ex-Russian spy told to wash items

Health officials say those who visited pub and restaurant should take precautions

A police officer in front of The Mill pub in Salisbury, England. Traces of a nerve agent used in the suspected attempted murder of a Russian ex-spy have been found in the pub. Photograph: Getty Images

A police officer in front of The Mill pub in Salisbury, England. Traces of a nerve agent used in the suspected attempted murder of a Russian ex-spy have been found in the pub. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Up to 500 people who visited a bar and a restaurant where a former Russian spy may have been poisoned by a nerve agent last week have been told to wash their clothes, phones and other possessions.

Public health officials said that although the risk was low, anyone who visited the restaurant Zizzi and or the Mill pub in Salisbury between Sunday afternoon and Monday evening last week should take precautions.

Jenny Harries, Public Health England’s regional director for the area, said there had been limited contamination at the two venues which Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia visited before they collapsed on a bench nearby.

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

“We work with our colleagues here on a continuous risk assessment basis. When we get new information we continuously risk-assess groups of people who may have become exposed from the evidence we have in front of us. As new evidence becomes available, we act on that immediately. Most people who will have been at the pub will have washed the clothes they were in,” she said.

“We’re not anticipating, on our current evidence, seeing new patients coming forward. This is about a very, very small risk of repetitive contact with traces of contamination that people may have taken out.”

Warm water

Customers at the two venues were told to wash any clothes they were wearing at the time; store items which cannot be washed in two plastic bags; wipe items such as phones and handbags with baby wipes; and wash items such as jewellery and spectacles in warm water with detergent.

Military personnel helped police on Sunday for a third successive day as they removed vehicles from the scene. Detectives have identified the rare nerve agent which poisoned Mr Skripal and his daughter, who remained in a critical condition in hospital on Sunday, a week after the apparent attack.

Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond rejected accusations that his government had been too soft on Russia after a public inquiry in 2015 determined that the Kremlin was behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko almost a decade earlier. And he rejected a call from Mr Litvinenko’s widow for the Conservatives to return £820,000 donated by Russian-linked business people since Theresa May took office.

“There are people in this country who are British citizens who are of Russian origin – I don’t think we should taint them...”

Sanctions

Mr Hammond suggested, however, that the government could toughen sanctions by working with Labour, which has proposed a British version of the US Magnitsky Act, which targets Russians involved in corruption and human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said his party’s MPs should no longer appear on RT, a Kremlin-backed channel formerly known as Russia Today.

“We tried to be fair with them and as long as they abide by journalistic standards that are objective that’s fine, but it looks as if they have gone beyond that line,” he said.