Arsonists in the UK targeted a 5G mast serving a newly built coronavirus hospital
- Arsonists have targeted a phone mast serving a newly-built coronavirus hospital in the UK, as the conspiracy theory linking 5G technology to the virus continues to spread.
- 40 phone masts have so far been targeted by arsonists and vandals since the pandemic began.
- Communications workers have been harassed on the street with videos of the incidents shared on social media.
- The discredited theory has been boosted by prominent figures in the UK.
- However, scientists have thoroughly debunked the claims, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson on Tuesday describing the theory as "complete nonsense."
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Arsonists have targeted a mobile phone mast serving a newly-built hospital in the UK as conspiracy theorists pushing the false claim of a link between 5G technology and the coronavirus trigger a wave of attacks across the country.
Vodafone UK Chief Executive Nick Jeffery on Tuesday, April 14 revealed in a LinkedIn post that a phone mast serving Birmingham's Nightingale Hospital, created to treat Covid-19 patients, had been attacked.
Jeffery said that the arson attack might have damaged the mast to the extent that critically-ill patients in the hospital and their relatives might not be able to call each other.
He wrote: "It's heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill.
"It's even more upsetting that even the small solace of a phone or video call may now be denied them because of the selfish actions of a few deluded conspiracy theorists."
He added: "Burning down masts means damaging important national infrastructure.
"In practice, this means families not being able to say a final goodbye to their loved ones; hard-working doctors, nurses, and police officers not being able to phone their kids, partners or parents for a comforting chat.
"Arsonists, please think about what you are doing and stop."
The Birmingham incident is the latest in a string of arson attacks on mobile phone masts across the UK amid the continued spread of a conspiracy theory linking 5G technology to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 40 masts have so far been targeted by arsonists and vandals as of Wednesday morning, with 20 attacks taking place last weekend alone.
Attacks have taken place on phone masts in locations including Liverpool, Belfast, Yorkshire and London.
A spokesperson for the UK prime minister on Tuesday described the 5G theory as "complete nonsense," adding that "we have been working with social media companies to ensure that these entirely bogus claims are not circulated."
Communications workers have also been targeted by 5G conspiracy theorists with videos of the incidents spreading rapidly across social media.
Scientists say there is no evidence that 5G is harmful to people. Fact-checkers have also debunked claims at the heart of the conspiracy theory, such as the claim that Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak began, is also where 5G was first rolled out.
Countries without any 5G coverage whatsoever have also been severely affected by the virus.
Despite this, the theory has been given rapid exposure by prominent figures in the UK.
British TV presenter Eamonn Holmes this week prompted an investigation by media regulator Ofcom into comments he made casting doubt on claims that the conspiracy theory was false, after his on-screen colleague described it as "not true" and "incredibly stupid".
Speaking while presenting ITV's This Morning, he told Alice Beer: "I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don't accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don't know it's not true.
"No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that, but it's very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative. That's all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind."
He later made a statement claiming his comments had been "misinterpreted" and denying any link between the technology and the virus.
Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.
Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.
Also from Business Insider South Africa:
- The design of SA’s first ventilator for mass production is expected within days
- Meet Quintin the robot, who's doing ward rounds in a Cape Town hospital during Covid-19
- Here’s how South African interest rates compare to the rest of the world
- Wanted: 72 million more sets of gloves, and 82 million more masks, for SA’s Covid-19 crisis
- Gold now costs R1 million a kilogram - and could climb even higher
- SA companies asked to pay suppliers by 20 April