An expert involved in the fight against coronavirus has described conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to the pandemic as “utter rubbish” after videos showing masts on fire in the UK were posted on social media.
Condemning the theories as “the worst kind of fake news” at a Downing Street press conference, national medical director of NHS England, Prof Steve Powis, 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. It is absolute and utter rubbish.”
Cabinet secretary Michael Gove added: “That’s just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well.”
Mobile UK, the trade body which represents network providers, said key workers had been abused and infrastructure threatened as a result of the claims.
On Thursday evening, West Midlands Fire Service said eight firefighters attended an incident involving a 21m tower on a telecommunications site in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham, although the cause of the fire was not determined.
Fire crews were called to a blaze at a phone mast in Aintree, Merseyside, on Friday night but a spokeswoman for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service said there were “no signs of foul play” so an investigation into its cause was not launched.
The mast had been featured in a video shared on social media the previous weekend by someone who claimed to be measuring radiation from it.
Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol, said: “The Internet connections these networks give us are one of the most important tools we are using to co-ordinate our response to the epidemic and efforts to do research to overcome it.”
Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said a connection between the phone masts and the virus would be “both a physical and biological impossibility”.
Celebrities who are “fanning the flames” of the conspiracy theories should be ashamed, another scientist said.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “Conspiracy theorists are a public health danger who once read a Facebook page.
“Here, we also see similar groups of people keen to show their ignorance on a topic where they have no helpful expertise, nor any inclination to post useful public health messages. The celebrities fanning the flames of these conspiracy theorists should be ashamed.”
Hunger Games actor Harrelson shared an article about the role of 5G in the coronavirus outbreak on his Instagram profile with the caption: “A lot of my friends have been talking about the negative effects of 5G. My friend Camilla seems (sic) this to me today and though I haven’t fully vetted it I find it very interesting.”
Ex on the Beach star Calum Best shared a picture with the words “I say no to 5G” on Instagram, along with a YouTube link to a lecture about the virus.
Gardiner, who left Dancing on Ice last year, posted a video called “The Threat of 5G” on Twitter and wrote: “Doctors and @WHO ask Governments to halt roll out of 5G. Here’s why!!”