Attacks on 5G phone masts putting lives at risk, No10 warns amid coronavirus conspiracy theories

Used by emergency responders fighting Coronavirus 

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Monday 06 April 2020 14:38
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Conspiracy theory about 5G and Covid-19 sparks online panic

Lives are being put at risk by conspiracy theories linking new 5G mobile phone masts to the coronavirus pandemic, Downing Street has warned.

The masts are vital for emergency services fighting the effects of the disease, No 10 said.

Over the weekend a number of mobile phone mast fires were being investigated as possible arson attacks amid claims circulating on social media that the masts are related to Covid-19.

The No 10 warning came hours after it emerged that Boris Johnson had been admitted to hospital because of the disease.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman described claims around 5G technology as a “crazed conspiracy theory”.

He added: “By destroying these masts people are actually putting lives at risk, because these are masts which emergency responders rely upon.”

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, will warn social media companies to take a stronger line against those peddling the claims on their sites later this week.

Ofcom, the regulator, has already said it is monitoring broadcasters who spread the claim.

Meanwhile, scientists have condemned the idea of a link.

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said: "The idea that COVID19 is caused by 5G mobile phone signals is complete rubbish. This is a disease which numerous doctors and scientists around the world have said is caused by a virus, something completely different to a mobile phone signal.

“Viruses are tiny particles made up of genetic material, wrapped in a layer of proteins and fats. They have no metabolism and can't reproduce without causing an infection. In the case of this coronavirus, it infects cells in human lungs in order to replicate, damaging them and also causing a harmful immune reaction in the process. 5G radio signals are electromagnetic waves, very similar to those already used by mobile phones. Electromagnetic waves are one thing, viruses are another, and you can't get a virus off a phone mast.”

Professor Steve Powis, the national medical director of NHS England, condemned the theories as “the worst kind of fake news” during a press conference on Saturday.

He added: “I’m absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted, that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency.

“It is absolute and utter rubbish.”

Conspiracy theories about 5G masts abounded even before the emergence of Covid-19.

Last year ministers wrote to every local authority in England warning them applications for 5G technology should not be blocked over claims the masts posed a cancer risk.

Dozens of councils are understood to have been lobbied amid claims that 5G radio waves can increase rates of cancer, dementia, suicide, infertility and autism.

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