Novichok poisonings

Local leaders call for Public Health England to rescind guidance issued after attack on Sergei Skripal in 2018

Health officials have refused to rescind guidance to people living in and around Salisbury not to pick up litter, as fears linger over the dangers posed by the novichok poisonings more than three years ago.

Local leaders have called for people in rural areas surrounding the city to be allowed to resume litter picking so they can clean up those areas. But Public Health England said it could not be sure it was safe. “As a precaution, PHE continues to advise the public not to pick up any items. The advice remains ‘if you didn’t drop it then don’t pick it up’,” a spokesperson said.

Steve Milton, the clerk to Alderbury parish council, said: “The common feeling in the village is that there is minimal risk. We are about five or six miles outside Salisbury. While the authorities may consider maintaining restrictions in Salisbury and Amesbury, where the poisonings took place, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of contamination here.”

Health officials believe the likelihood of any such contamination is low, but they said they were concerned about the consequences of anyone picking up possibly contaminated litter.

Two members of the public are known to have been affected by the novichok poison aimed at the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in March 2018. Dawn Sturgess died after sampling what she thought was perfume given to her by Charlie Rowley, who survived.

Public Health England said novichok dissolved when in contact with water but could last a long time in a sealed container.

Richard Britton, a councillor for Alderbury and Whiteparish at Wiltshire council, told the BBC: “After three years, you would think that PHE would have got its act together and reconsidered their advice. Having left it so long I think they owe it to residents to sort this out very quickly.”

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