Coronavirus: Michael Gove condemns conspiracy theories about 5G and Covid-19 as 'dangerous nonsense' after masts damaged

'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,' says NHS official 

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 04 April 2020 21:18 BST
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Mr Gove said there was ‘no fixed point’ in the calendar the government can say when lockdown measures will change
Mr Gove said there was ‘no fixed point’ in the calendar the government can say when lockdown measures will change

Michael Gove has branded conspiracy theories on social media blaming new 5G masts for the spread of coronavirus as “dangerous nonsense” while the national medical director of the NHS said it was the “worst kind of fake news”.

The strong criticism from officials comes after celebrities were accused of “fanning the flames” of the baseless stories linking the technology to the outbreak of Covid-19. Videos purportedly showing telephone masts on fire have also circulated online.

Condemning the theories on Saturday at a No 10 press conference, Mr Gove, the minister for the cabinet office, said: “That’s just nonsense. Dangerous nonsense as well.”

Appearing alongside the cabinet minister, the national medical director of NHS England Professor Stephen Powis also said: “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.”

Expressing his frustration, Professor Powis went on: “The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, particularly in a time when we are asking people to stay at home and to not see relatives and friends.

“But in particular those are also the phone networks used by our emergency services and our health workers ... It is absolute, utter rubbish and I can’t condemn it in terms stronger than that.”

Mr Gove also said that a further 708 people in the UK had lost their lives after contracting coronavirus, including seven health care professionals – bringing the country’s death toll to 4,313. A total of 183,190 have so far been tested for the virus, of whom 41,903 were positive.

“Those numbers emphasise the importance of maintaining social distancing measures to halt the spread of the disease,” the cabinet minister said as he urged the British public to adhere to the government’s strict lockdown guidance despite the warming weather.

Professor Powis added that new cases of coronavirus appeared to have stabled, but also insisted now is not the time to “take our foot off the pedal” with social distancing measures. “We need to continue to comply with those instructions because that will translate in the next week or two into a reduction in hospital admissions,” he said.

Earlier, Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist who has been advising the government on the outbreak of the virus, suggested that the UK’s epidemic could plateau in the next week to 10 days, and also suggested that lockdown restrictions could be relaxed by the end of May if the social distancing rules are followed.

But when pressed on the UK’s exit strategy from the current lockdown, Mr Gove admitted there was “no fixed point, no specific date in the calendar” the government can say when things will change.

He said: “The prime minister said that the current lockdown proposals will be reviewed in what is just over a week’s time. We’re dealing with a wholly new virus.

“We’re dealing with a virus whose spread and capacity to cause death are unlike those that we’ve seen specifically before and therefore we need to be certain that in every area where we can fight this virus, we are improving our capacity and making sure we have the flexibility needed to have all the tools ready in order to fight it.”

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