The investigation into the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, "could take weeks", the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police has announced, saying it could be some time before Salisbury city centre is returned to normal.
Giving an update on the investigation into the poisoning at a police crime panel meeting in Devizes, Kier Pritchard said the operation was still focused on gathering evidence and had not yet entered the “recovery stage”.
He continued that once all the evidence had been gathered, decontamination will take place so that the cordoned areas are “fit to to return to the public", but said there was no time frame for this and it could "take weeks".
Despite the ambiguous time frame, Chief Con Pritchard said that Wiltshire Police's priority at present "is to return the community, Salisbury, and the UK back to normality" following the attack.
Chief Con Pritchard revealed that visitors to Salisbury city centre are down 90% in the wake of the nerve agent attack.
He continued that the impact on businesses following the Novichok poisoning has been "significant" and that as well as a reduction in footfall, some shop had seen their takings fall by 90%.
Chief Con Pritchard's words come just days after Wiltshire Council announced that parking will be free in Salisbury from Saturday until further notice, in a bid to support local businesses during the ongoing incident.
The council said parking in all of its car parks will be free following requests from local businesses in a bid to entice shoppers and visitors back into the city centre.
He added that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the police officer who was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent "is making great steps forward.
"He's improving. It's fantastic to see that improvement.”
On Wednesday, ITV News learnt that Det Sgt Bailey is expected to be discharged from hospital shortly.
The Wiltshire police officer was left in a critical condition having come into contact with the chemical weapon while working on the investigation into the targeted attack.
Chief Con Pritchard described what Det Sgt Bailey and his wife and children are going through as "horror", but said they are "solid and strong".
He added that the injured officer is currently receiving occupational therapy and occupational psychotherapy.
On Thursday, reports emerged that a second police officer is being treated for suspected poisoning following the attack.
The Mail Online reported that a uniformed PC was being monitored as an outpatient by Salisbury General Hospital after suffering skin irritation.
The officer is said to have come into contact with an object that possibly had "secondary contamination".
Following the poisoning on March 4, both Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter remain critically ill in hospital.