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United Kingdom police declare major incident after couple exposed to unknown substance
05 July 2018, 07:18 | Erica Roy
Armed British police officers stand on duty outside Parsons Green underground tube station in west London on 15 September 2017
The British couple, hospitalized with poisoning earlier this week, were affected by the same strand of "Novichok" nerve agent that was used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
The UK hospital that treated poisoned former Russian Federation spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter is now treating two others exposed to an "unknown substance".
"The priority for the investigation team now, is to establish how these two people have come into contact with this nerve agent", he said.
A highly toxic Soviet-developed nerve agent, Novichok poisoned Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in England in March.
"The possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of inquiry for us", Neil Basu, head of Britain's counter-terrorism police force, told reporters on Wednesday.
"Where we have decontaminated sites from the previous exposure to this nerve agent - we are happy that those sites are safe and the public should know that they are safe", he said.
Police officers stand next to a section of playing field near Amesbury Baptist Church, which has been cordoned off after two people were hospitalised and police declared a "major incident", in Amesbury, Wiltshire, Britain, July 4, 2018.
Security cordons have been set up around the areas where the two people went before they fell ill, police said, and security has been boosted in both Amesbury and Salisbury.
He did not argue that the nerve agent was from the same batch that was allegedly used in March to poison former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia but did not rule out any connection between these incidents.
Paramedics were called to the home after the woman collapsed and they returned later with fire and rescue officers when the man also became ill.
The pair is now in hospital in a critical condition.
Basu said police had not found any items which showed signs of contamination and officers were piecing together a "very detailed examination of their movements... to determine where they might have been exposed".
The pair, who are being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, were initially believed to have taken heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch but tests are ongoing to identify the substance involved.
"They've been through some real difficulties together, they are lovely people who have been through really hard times", he said.
Britain blamed the poisoning of the Skripals on Russian Federation, prompting a serious diplomatic crisis between Moscow and Western states.
Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital in April and her father was released a month later.
The public can also expect to see an increased police presence in and around Amesbury and Salisbury.
Senior British officials held an emergency meeting in London to discuss the incident, and will meet later again on Wednesday, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
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