Connect with us

Latest News

How Sergei and Yulia Skripal survived the novichok attack

Published

on

Poisoned spy Sergei Skripal is no longer in a critical condition and his daughter says her strength is “growing daily”. Just a few weeks ago they were seemingly on the brink of death – so how did they survive?

Alastair Hay, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Leeds University, tells Sky News how they may have fought off the novichok nerve agent and managed a “miracle” recovery.

:: But first, how dangerous is novichok really?

“The nerve agents are deadly,” says Prof Hay.

“That’s why they were chosen as chemical weapons. If you are exposed to a number of lethal doses then invariably it is fatal.”

They block acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme active in the nervous system.

The result is involuntary contraction of all muscles, leading to cardiac arrest and asphyxiation.

One of the scientists who helped make novichok has also told Sky News the substance was designed to do “irreparable” damage to the body.


preview image



Video:
Nerve agents: What they are and how they kill

:: Paramedics’ quick treatment was crucial

“The Skripals have survived because they’ve had great medical care,” says Prof Hay.

“I’m sure if the paramedics hadn’t been on the scene as quickly as they were – and were able to ensure that the Skripals kept breathing – they wouldn’t have survived.”

The former spy and his daughter were reportedly frothing at the mouth when they were found on a bench in Salisbury last month.

Those who made the first 999 call may have saved their lives.

Police say the bench will be removed on Friday
Image:
The bench where the Skripals were found on 4 March

:: Did they get an antidote?

There isn’t a magic-pill “cure” for novichok poisoning – which makes treating it something of an inexact science.

Prof Hay says “doctors treating the Skripals would have been a bit in the dark about some aspects of their treatment” because “a very specific (antidote) to target the nerve agent and pull it off an enzyme that is blocked is just not known”.

However, the toxicology expert says the father and daughter were likely to have been given one of several general antidotes.

In this case, they appear to have helped.

:: Sergei Skripal no longer in a critical condition

Professor Hay says their recover is testament to the care and skill of the NHS
Image:
Professor Hay says paramedics’ quick response was vital

:: The body ‘flushes out’ the nerve agent

The precise way novichok is metabolised by the body is not fully known, says Prof Hay.

However, if someone can be kept alive long enough after the initial poisoning, then the body stands a chance of ridding itself of the toxin.

“The nerve agents are eventually metabolised and excreted from the body,” explains the professor.

“So it’s highly unlikely there is any nerve agent present… after even a couple of weeks.

“We don’t know too much about how these compounds are metabolised, but we do know they would eventually be excreted.”

It is possible that Ms Skripal, 33, and her father, 66, were sedated to reduce stress on the brain while the body flushed out the nerve agent.

“Once they had some idea the nerve agent had probably been removed from the body, they could bring somebody out of sedation,” explains Prof Hay.

:: Body starts making the blocked enzyme

The enzyme suppressed by nerve agents such as novichok “is eventually made again in the body”.

That’s what could have kickstarted the rapid improvement seen in the Skripals’ health over the last few weeks.

“If you can keep someone alive eventually they will recover because the body makes up what was blocked by the nerve agent,” says Prof Hay.

“And that happens increasingly, and that’s why someone progresses and improves… The recovery of the enzyme in the nervous system would ensure that the recovery would continue and improve considerably.

“I’m delighted that appears to be the case with Yulia Skripal.”

The forensic tent, covering the bench where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found, is repositioned by officials in protective suits
Image:
The hazmat suits worn in Salisbury are an indication of how dangerous novichok is

:: ‘Saved by the NHS’

“In a way it is a miracle really,” says Prof Hay.

“But also a testimony to our NHS: great doctors well-trained, looking after people appropriately and well.

“So it’s the skill of our doctors that’s ensured their survival. Without it, I’m pretty certain they would not have survived.”

Source link

Latest News

Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News

Published

on

Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Image:
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
Image:
The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News

Published

on

Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

Image:
Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

Source link

Continue Reading

Latest News

COVID-19: Doubt cast over Tokyo 2021 as Japanese towns ditch plans to host Olympic athletes | World News

Published

on

Japanese towns have dropped plans to host Olympic athletes – in what is a further indication of the disruption that could affect the Games.

Over 500 towns are registered to host international Olympians for training camps and cultural exchanges before Tokyo 2020 starts.

However, 40 towns have abandoned plans, concerned they will overburden medical resources amid a fourth wave.

There have been calls in Japan for the games to be put off or cancelled
Image:
There have been calls in Japan for the Games to be delayed or cancelled

The reluctance of towns on the outskirts of Tokyo is the latest signal of the unease among people in Japan over scheduling the Games during a pandemic.

Tokyo 2020 was postponed last year and is scheduled to start on 23 July, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and a state of emergency in the capital.

Regions scheduled to host athletes have been hard hit, including the eastern region of Chiba, where the US track and field team had been due to have a training camp.

Chiba cancelled plans to welcome the American athletes on Wednesday and governor Toshihito Kumagai said hospital beds cannot be guaranteed for athletes as they should not be given preferential treatment.

Okuizumo was going to host India’s hockey team for a training camp but it has also ditched these plans.

Seiko Hashimoto
Image:
Politician and former Olympic athlete, Seiko Hashimoto, wants the Games to go ahead

The International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that it is confident the Olympics would be a “historic event”.

But public opposition to the Games is growing as Japan struggles to cope with the latest surge in infections.

According to the latest figures, there were 7,521 new cases on Wednesday, including 969 infections in host-city Tokyo.

The country is in the midst of a fourth wave, with the games set to begin in July
Image:
The country is in the midst of a fourth wave, with the games set to begin in July
Hokkaido has been running test events for the Olympic marathon but recorded over 1,000 cases on Wednesday
Image:
Hokkaido has been running test events for the Olympic marathon but recorded over 1,000 cases on Wednesday

Hokkaido, which is hosting test events for the Olympic marathon, reported 1,029 cases on Wednesday.

Some athletes are also questioning whether the Games should go ahead, with tennis stars Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka raising their concerns.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Anti-Olympics protest in Tokyo

Nadal said he was unsure what his calendar will look like this summer, while Williams’s doubts stem from the possibility of not being able to travel with her three-year-old daughter Olympia.

Japan’s world number two Osaka said on Tuesday that rising COVID-19 levels in Tokyo are a “big cause of concern” and said she was not sure if the Games should go ahead.

One of Japan’s most prominent executives and SoftBank’s chief executive Masayoshi Son has also voiced his concerns – saying he is “afraid” of hosting the Olympics during a pandemic.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending