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A mobile phone mast serving the Nightingale hospital in Birmingham was among 20 suspected to have been attacked by arsonists who wrongly blame 5G for spreading the coronavirus.
Conspiracy theories linking the technology to the outbreak are without any foundation and have been widely condemned by scientists, government and industry as unproven and “utter rubbish”.
The attack on the mast close to the hospital created to treat Covid-19 patients was revealed by Vodafone chief executive Nick Jeffery in a LinkedIn post.
He wrote: “It’s heart-rending enough that families cannot be there at the bedside of loved ones who are critically ill.
“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.”
He added: “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.”
The new temporary field hospital at Birmingham’s NEC opened last week as one of a network of NHS Nightingale Hospitals being built up and down the country to deal with the outbreak. It has 496 beds divided into four wards – with potential to be immediately increased to 800 if needed.
Mobile UK, the trade body which represents all network providers that revealed there were 20 attacks over the weekend, said “careless talk could cause untold damage” following comments about the issue by Eamonn Holmes on Monday’s edition of This Morning.
On Monday, the 60-year-old weighed in on the ITV show after presenter Alice Beer branded the conspiracy theories “ridiculous” and “incredibly stupid”.
He told Beer: “I totally agree with everything you are saying but what I don’t accept is mainstream media immediately slapping that down as not true when they don’t know it’s not true.
“No-one should attack or damage or do anything like that but it’s very easy to say it is not true because it suits the state narrative.”
The presenter added: “That’s all I would say, as someone with an inquiring mind.”
Holmes attempted to “clarify” his comments on Tuesday, saying: “Every theory relating to such a connection has been proven to be false and we would like to emphasise that.
“However, many people are rightly concerned and looking for answers and that’s simply what I was trying to do, to impart yesterday.
“But for the avoidance of any doubt, I want to make it clear there’s no scientific evidence to substantiate any of those 5G theories. I hope that clears that up now.”
Since the beginning of April, West Midlands Police said it had received eight reports of telecommunications infrastructure being set on fire or otherwise vandalised in its region.
Although one incident is presently unconfirmed, all eight reports remain under investigation.
Elsewhere, two 19-year-old men and an 18-year-old man have been arrested on suspicion of arson for a suspected arson attack on a mast in Dagenham.
Meanwhile, West Yorkshire Police are working with the fire service to determine the nature of mast fire in Huddersfield.
The Metropolitan Police was called to a telecoms mast fire on Becontree Avenue in Dagenham at 1.34am on Tuesday.
Some evacuations of residential properties were carried out as a precaution, but residents have since been allowed to return to their homes after the fire was extinguished, the Met Police said.
In Huddersfield, an incident in the early hours of Tuesday involving a phone mast attached to a chimney on Lower Quarry Road is being investigated.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire destroyed communications equipment belonging to three mobile network providers, one of which is used by the emergency services.
The cause of both incidents is not yet known, but network provider EE said they are not 5G masts.
Professor Steve Powis, national medical director of NHS England, has previously called theories linking 5G to the spread of Covid-19 the “worst kind of fake news”.
A spokesman for Mobile UK said: “Theories being spread about 5G are baseless and are not grounded in credible scientific theory.
“Mobile operators are dedicated to keeping the UK connected, and careless talk could cause untold damage.
“Continuing attacks on mobile infrastructure risks lives and at this challenging time the UK’s critical sectors must be able to focus all their efforts fighting this pandemic.”