EuropeTop StoriesWorld

5G conspiracy: Dangerous fake nonsense

LONDON: People take their daily exercise in Greenwich Park in south London as life continues in the city during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. – AFP

LONDON: A conspiracy theory that links 5G mobile telecommunications masts to the spread of the novel coronavirus is dangerous fake news and completely false, Britain said on Saturday after masts in several parts of the country were torched. When asked by a reporter about the so called “theory” that 5G telecommunications masts could play a role in the spread of the disease, British Cabinet Officer Minister Michael Gove said: “That is just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well.”

Mobile phone masts have in recent days been vandalized and telecoms staff abused in Birmingham in central England and Merseyside in northern England, damaging connectivity at a time when people are relying on it more than ever. An arson attack at a tower in Birmingham owned by BT, Britain’s biggest telecoms company, caused significant damage. It provided 2G, 3G and 4G services to thousands of people, but did not have 5G capability, the company said.

NHS England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, said the 5G conspiracy idea was fake news with no scientific backing that risked damaging the emergency response to the outbreak. “The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish, it’s nonsense, it’s the worst kind of fake news,” Powis said. “The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us.”

“Those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and our health workers and 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,” Powis said. A lobby group for the United Kingdom’s mobile operators – including EE, O2, Vodafone and Three – said it was aware of the false rumors linking 5G to the outbreak, and that telecoms staff had been threatened.

Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, said the attacks were now a matter of national security. “It beggars belief that some people should want to harm the very networks that are providing essential connectivity to the emergency services, the NHS, and rest of the country during this difficult lockdown period,” UK boss Nick Jeffery said. He described his engineers as heroes and urged people not to spread the “utterly baseless” stories online.

UK death toll rises
High fatalities from the coronavirus will continue in the United Kingdom for at least another week or two even if people comply with stringent isolation measures, health authorities said on Saturday as the country’s death toll jumped to 4,313. The toll went up by 708 in 24 hours, the highest daily rise so far in Britain. A 5-year-old child with an underlying health problem was among the dead, along with at least 40 who had no known previous known conditions. “With great sadness the number of deaths continues to be high,” Stephen Powis, the national medical director of the English health service, said at a Downing Street news conference.

“Unfortunately that is likely to continue over the next week or two until we get on top and stop this virus,” Powis said. The government has put Britain into a widespread shutdown, closing pubs, restaurants and nearly all shops, while ordering people to stay home unless it is absolutely essential to venture out. Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove repeatedly declined to say when the lockdown could be lifted but said it would depend on whether people adhered to the stringent rules.

The lockdown began nearly two weeks ago, with a pledge to review the measures after three weeks. “If we relax our adherence to the rules we increase the risk for others,” he said, offering his condolences to the family of the 5-year-old. Britain initially took a restrained approach on tactics to curb the spread but Prime Minister Boris Johnson changed tack and imposed stringent social-distancing measures after modeling showed a quarter of a million people in the country could die.

Johnson has himself been in self-isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. His pregnant fiancee, Carrie Symonds, said on Twitter she had spent the past week in bed with symptoms but was now feeling better. “I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus. I haven’t needed to be tested and, after seven days of rest, I feel stronger and I’m on the mend,” Symonds said.

Length of lockdown
Countries around the world are grappling with tens of thousands of coronavirus deaths and more than a million cases. But the massive efforts to contain the spread have virtually stalled the economy and some have started to question if a global depression will cost more lives in the long run. British health officials have said the peak of the deaths could come on Easter Sunday, April 12, and Powis told a news conference that new cases had stabilized in recent days.

Hospital admissions also plateaued in London, the epicenter of the British outbreak, while increasing in the Midlands and the north west of England. As of 0800 GMT on Saturday, some 41,903 people had tested positive out of a total of 183,190 people tested. Neil Ferguson, a government adviser and professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, said the lockdown was unlikely to be lifted until the end of May. “We want to move to a situation where at least by the end of May we’re able to substitute some less intensive measures, more based on technology and testing, for the complete lockdown we have now,” he told BBC Radio. – Agencies

Back to top button