Mobile network providers in the UK have been forced to come out and debunk “baseless” theories circulating on social media that claimed that 5G towers were spreading the novel coronavirus in the country.
The statement was released by MobileUK, the trade organization representing Three, O2, EE, and Vodafone, following reports from multiple cities that the phone masts were being set ablaze.
Footage posted on a now-deleted Facebook page showed a 70-foot-tall mast burning and firefighters battling to douse the flames on Spring Road in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham at 8:18 pm on Thursday, April 2. They had to ultimately fight the flames for two hours as police closed off the road to protect oncoming traffic.
West Midlands Fire Service confirmed eight firefighters had responded to the scene, though a spokesman could not confirm if the mast that was 5G. A similar incident of another 5G mast seemingly being set on fire was also reported in Coventry.
The fires were seemingly instigated by a Facebook page created on Thursday where members claimed that 5G waves being emitted around the country was behind the breakout of the novel coronavirus. The page also hosted several videos of these 5G masts being set on fire.
“Send in photos/videos to this page of 5G cell towers burnt down to the ground, we will have a competition and credit the winner,” one post read. “They will only count if they come with a photo/video and location. Good luck. The winners are the team with the most points.”
It was accompanied by a modified version of the Premier League table that had teams seemingly scored based on how many 5G masts had been burned down in the city of its location.
However, there is no proof to back up such a claim, with a radiation watching having confirmed that 5G was safe and did not pose a threat to human life last month. Facebook eventually deleted the page for breaching its policies because it had the potential to cause real-world harm.
In a statement, MobileUK said it was “‘concerning that certain groups are using the Covid-19 pandemic to spread false rumors and theories about the safety of 5G technologies”,
More worryingly, they said, was that “some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure under the pretense of claims about 5G.”
Indeed, O2 had to issue its engineers who were working outside on essential network projects with a sign to explain that they were key workers after it was reported that telecom staff were being abused by members of the public.
“This is not acceptable and only impacts on our ability as an industry to maintain the resilience and operational capacity of the networks to support mass home working and critical connectivity to the emergency services, vulnerable consumers and hospital,” Mobile UK said.
“The theories that are being spread about 5G on social media are baseless and are not grounded in accepted scientific theory,” the statement continued. “Research into the safety of radio signals including 5G, which has been conducted for more than 50 years, has led to the establishment of human exposure standards including safety factors that protect against all established health risks.”