By Catherine Sbeglia
A new hospital in Birmingham, England is one of the latest victims of the growing — and false — belief that 5G is somehow causing or spreading the novel coronavirus. The attack on the mobile phone mast serving the emergency hospital sparked outrage for the CEO of Vodafone UK, Nick Jeffery who revealed that 20 of its masts have now been targeted as a result of the conspiracy.
“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,” Jeffery posted on LinkedIn.
Adding to the absurdity of the attacks is that fact that in most cases, the sabotaged infrastructure wasn’t even equipped with 5G technology.
Jeffery’s strong words are an echo of the concerns that BT’s CEO Philip Jansen expressed last week in a letter to a news agency.
“11 of our mobile masts have been destroyed or damaged through arson — and 33 across all operators in the UK so far,” he wrote. “That may not sound a lot, but if the site that provides coverage to your house gets burned down, it matters.”
He also reported that 39 engineers from BT have been physically or verbally assaulted by 5G conspiracists, with some even receiving death threats.
“Everything about this is senseless,” said Jansen.
Celebrities are picking up these 5G conspiracy theories, increasing their visibility. Woody Harrelson, for example, recently shared a report exploring the connection between COVID-19 and 5G to his 2 million Instagram followers.
And more recently, the media regulator Ofcom launched a probe into comments made by Northern Ireland TV broadcaster Eamonn Holmes, which many felt suggested that people should not be too quick to dismiss a potential link between COVID-19 and 5G.
Ofcom stated, “In our view, Eamonn Holmes’ ambiguous comments were ill-judged and risked undermining viewers’ trust in advice from public authorities and scientific evidence.”
Further, the regulator commented that while it respects the editorial freedom of broadcasters to challenge the approach taken by public authorities during a global health crisis like the pandemic, discussions about “unproven claims and theories” could undermine the trust in public health information, and therefore, “must be put fully into context to ensure viewers are protected.”
Both Jensen and Jeffery are pleading with the conspiracists to stop the attacks.
“Arsonists, please think about what you are doing and stop,” Jefferey said. “Imagine if it were your mum or dad, your gran or grandad in hospital. Imagine not being able to see or hear them one last time. All because you’ve swallowed a dangerous lie. There is absolutely no link between 5G and coronavirus. There is no science-based evidence 5G is harmful to human health.”