Telecoms engineers are facing verbal and physical threats during the lockdown, as baseless conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to the roll-out of 5G technology spread by celebrities such as Amanda Holden prompt members of the public to abuse those maintaining vital mobile phone and broadband networks.
Facebook has removed one anti-5G group in which users were being encouraged to supply footage of them destroying mobile phone equipment, with some contributors seemingly under the pretence that it may stop the spread of coronavirus and some running leaderboards of where equipment had been targeted.
The problem has become so bad that engineers working for BT Openreach, which provides home broadband services, have also taken to posting public pleas on anti-5G Facebook groups asking to be spared the on-street abuse as they are not involved in maintaining mobile networks.
In one widely circulated video that has attracted millions of views on Twitter alone, individuals working for the broadband company Community Fibre are abused by a woman who claimed without any evidence that they were installing 5G as part of a plot to kill the population.
“You know when they turn this on, it’s going to kill everyone, and that’s why they’re building the hospitals,” she tells the baffled engineers on a London street. “Do you have children, do you have parents? When they turn that switch on, bye bye momma. Are they paying you well enough to kill people?”
Social media posts from celebrities such as singer Anne Marie have helped spread the theory, while Holden, a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, shared a link to a popular Change.org petition promoting the rumour that the symptoms of coronavirus are in reality due to residing near a 5G mast. The petition was subsequently removed following inquiries from the Guardian.
International radiation experts have repeatedly made clear that the new high-speed telephone system does not pose a risk to humans, while pointing out that the coronavirus has spread widely in many countries without any 5G coverage, such as Iran.