The UK government and mobile industry have reiterated that there is no scientific evidence of a link between 5G networks and the spread of coronavirus.
A baseless conspiracy theory has been spreading on social media with a number of minor celebrities also sharing dubious links over the weekend. In a sinister twist, communications workers have been threatened while 5G masts have been the subject of arson attacks.
This comes at a time when the UK’s communications infrastructure is more important than ever, with mobile and broadband networks allowing people to work from home, speak to loved ones, and aiding the emergency services putting their lives at risk to protect the public.
Meanwhile, anonymised location data is helping governments understand more about the spread of the virus so it can be contained, while mobile applications are helping people to track symptoms and seek assistance.
5G is safe
Anti-5G campaigners have argued next-generation-networks can cause a range of health problems despite the fact that the entire body of research available refutes these claims, while World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations are that 5G is safe.
Recent guidance from the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) took into account more than two decades of research and concluded there was absolutely no risk to public health.
The UK government has ordered social networks to do more to prevent the spread of misinformation, while England’s National Medical Director Stephen Powis said: ““The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish, it’s nonsense, it’s the worst kind of fake news.”
Mobile UK, which represents EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, reiterated the vital role that communications are playing during the current crisis and called for conspiracy theorists to cease their hostilities.
“We are 100 per cent focused on making sure the UK's mobile and broadband networks are resilient, ensuring you, your families and businesses, can keep connected when you need it most,” read a statement.
“Sadly, we have experienced cases of vandals setting fire to mobile masts, disrupting critical infrastructure and spreading false information suggesting a connection between 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no scientific evidence of any link between 5G and coronavirus. Fact.
“Not only are these claims baseless, they are harmful for the people and businesses that rely on the continuity of our services. They have also led to the abuse of our engineers and, in some cases, prevented essential network maintenance taking place.
“Please help us to make this stop. If you witness abuse of our key workers please report it. If you see misinformation, please call it out. Your help will make a real difference.”
These calls have been echoed by worldwide industry body the GSMA.
“It is deplorable that critical communications infrastructure is being attacked based on outright mistruths,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA. “We urge everyone to trust health authorities and rest assured communications technology is safe. There is no link between 5G and COVID-19.”
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.