As part of the ongoing operation into the Amesbury poisoning, specialist teams will now undertake precautionary testing of the Wiltshire Air Ambulance station, emergency vehicles and kit worn by responders involved in the initial response to Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess.
The highly precautionary process, is designed to ensure that no onward contamination has taken place. The risk of this is assessed as low, however it is essential that no chances are taken and this is why the work is taking place.
To ensure that the specialist sampling teams are able to complete their work unimpeded, the Air Ambulance base, located in Semington, will close temporarily from 5pm today (Weds 1 August 2018). During the course of the work, the Air Ambulance will also be subject of precautionary sampling and will be unable to fly.
During the period that the helicopter is unable to fly, the charity's paramedics and doctors will remain fully operational providing critical care in Wiltshire by using Rapid Response Cars. The cars have the same specialist medical equipment that is on-board the helicopter.
It is important to again stress that the testing forms part of the wider response to the incident and is being undertaken on a precautionary basis. The advice from Public Health England has not changed since the start of this incident - the risk to the public and first responders remains low. It has, therefore, not been necessary to shut this site before.
At the conclusion of the work the results will inform what if any, wider remediation work needs to take place.
Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills, who is leading the multi-agency response to the incident said: "We are very aware that this news might cause some concern to our communities. The work we are undertaking forms part of the wider ongoing response to the incident and is the next logical precautionary step in the process. This highly precautionary activity is focused on ensuring that we take all steps necessary to consider any remediation activity which may be necessary in the longer term to further reduce any residual risk."
Chief Executive of Wiltshire Air Ambulance David Philpott said: "As is normal procedure when our helicopter is unable to fly, our paramedics and doctors will respond to emergencies in Rapid Response Cars, providing critical care to patients.
"We are incredibly proud to provide a lifesaving service in Wiltshire and surrounding counties and thank everyone, including our colleagues at neighbouring air ambulances, who will offer support in the short term."
Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said; "All agencies are working closely together and are working incredibly hard to ensure the safety of staff and of course of the public. Its right that action is taken to rigorously and thoroughly test where the scientific advice dictates its appropriate to do so. Public safety must remain the number one priority and I am confident this is at the absolute forefront of any action taken."
We have set up two dedicated phone numbers for anyone with concerns relating to this incident, staffed by police and public health officers. The Freephone number is 0800 092 0410 or if you cannot dial Freephone, call 0207 158 0124.