Michael Gove has dismissed a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus crisis may have been caused by 5G networks as “dangerous nonsense”.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Saturday NHS England Professor Steve Powis also described the theories as “utter rubbish” after videos showing masts on fire were posted on social media.
Mobile UK, the trade body which represents network providers, said key workers had been abused and infrastructure threatened as a result of the claims.
On Thursday evening, West Midlands Fire Service said eight firefighters attended an incident involving a 70ft tower on a telecommunications site in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham, although the cause of the fire was not determined.
Professor Powis said: “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.
“It is absolute and utter rubbish.”
Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove added: “That’s just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well.”
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Prof Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said a connection between the phone masts and the virus would be “both a physical and biological impossibility”.
Celebrities who are “fanning the flames” of the conspiracy theories should be ashamed, another scientist said.
Cheers actor Woody Harrelson and former Dancing on Ice judge Jason Gardiner are among stars who have shared theories.
Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said: “Conspiracy theorists are a public health danger who once read a Facebook page.
“Here, we also see similar groups of people keen to show their ignorance on a topic where they have no helpful expertise, nor any inclination to post useful public health messages.
“The celebrities fanning the flames of these conspiracy theorists should be ashamed.”
Mobile UK, the trade body which represents network providers, said it is “concerning that certain groups are using the Covid-19 pandemic to spread false rumours and theories about the safety of 5G technologies”.
“More worryingly some people are also abusing our key workers and making threats to damage infrastructure under the pretence of claims about 5G,” a statement said.
“This is not acceptable and only impacts on our ability as an industry to maintain the resilience and operational capacity of the networks to support mass home working and critical connectivity to the emergency services, vulnerable consumers and hospitals.”
It continued: “The theories that are being spread about 5G on social media are baseless and are not grounded in accepted scientific theory.
“Research into the safety of radio signals including 5G, which has been conducted for more than 50 years, has led to the establishment of human exposure standards including safety factors that protect against all established health risks.”
In a statement on Twitter, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are aware of inaccurate information being shared online about 5G.
“There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.”