Suspected arsonists have targeted a mobile phone mast providing network connectivity to one of the new NHS Nightingale field hospitals.
While a scientifically ignorant and deeply flawed conspiracy theory linking the deployment of 5G to the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, police have responded to a spate of attacks on antennas across the UK.
At least 20 suspected arson attacks were reported over the Easter weekend alone, with one now confirmed to have been carried out on a mast serving the NHS Nightingale at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre.
With the Midlands only behind London in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths, the 500-bed field hospital became fully operational last week and is designed to help stop existing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffrey said the “selfish actions” of “deluded conspiracy theorists” could rob coronavirus patients who are isolated from their families of a phone or video call from their hospital bed.
“It’s heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill,” he said.
“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.
“Burning down masts means damaging important national infrastructure.
“In practice, this means families not being able to say a final goodbye to their loved ones; hard-working doctors, nurses, and police officers not being able to phone their kids, partners or parents for a comforting chat.
“Arsonists, please think about what you are doing and stop.
“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.”
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Other recent cases of phone masts being attacked include:
- Two men aged 19 and 18 being arrested on suspicion of arson over fire damage to a phone mast in Dagenham, which forced several homes to be evacuated as a precaution.
- Fire destroyed a phone mast on a chimney in Huddersfield that was used by three mobile network providers, including one used by the local emergency services.
- West Midlands Police are investigating eight separate reports of telecommunications infrastructure being vandalised or set on fire.
NHS England’s medical director has said he is “outraged and disgusted” by the conspiracy theories linking 5G to the coronavirus pandemic, calling them “the worst kind of fake news”.
Speaking at one of the government’s daily briefings last week, Stephen Powis said: “The reality is the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, especially when we’re at home and unable to see families and friends.”
Among those to have been criticised for comments about the conspiracy theories is This Morning’s Eamonn Holmes, who said he did not accept the “mainstream media immediately slapping down” the theories.
TV watchdog Ofcom said it had received more than 400 complaints and that it was assessing the programme.
Holmes, 60, has since moved to clarify his comments, saying: “Every theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasise that.”