KEY POINTS

  • Some conspiracy theorists blame 5G and its radiation for causing COVID-19 pandemic
  • They're responsible for burning cell phone towers in the U.K.
  • A British government official calls this conspiracy theory “the worst kind of fake news”

One of the silliest conspiracy theories that came into existence during the COVID-19 pandemic is that this deadly disease isn’t being caused by a virus, but by "killer radiation" from 5G, the new super-fast mobile phone technology that can download movies in a few minutes. Another conspiracy theory claims there isn't a COVID-19 pandemic at all. The illnesses and deaths we see occurring worldwide are being caused by killer radiation emitted by 5G towers.

Fewer than 50 countries worldwide have deployed 5G, which leads to the question as to why COVID-19 is a pandemic affecting more than 200 countries. Iran hasn't rolled-out any 5G networks but is now the seventh most COVID-19 infected country with 60,500 cases and 3,739 deaths.

Spreading on social media, especially Facebook and YouTube, these examples of fake news appear to have triggered a wave of attacks against cell towers -- none of them 5G -- in the U.K. over the past weeks. Several 3G and 4G cell towers in the U.K. were set on fire by still unidentified suspects.

YouTube videos alleging a connection between COVID-19 and 5G have gotten hundreds of thousands of views. Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office, labeled the 5G conspiracy theories “dangerous nonsense.”

In a joint statement, EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three (the largest wireless carriers) claim 5G in any way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic has no basis in fact.

"Not only are these claims baseless, they are harmful for the people and businesses that rely on the continuity of our services," said the statement. "They have also led to the abuse of our engineers and, in some cases, prevented essential network maintenance taking place."

Vodafone Group plc, one of the country's largest wireless service providers, said four of its mobile phone masts were attacked in the last 24 hours, in addition to others over the past few weeks.

Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery condemned the attacks on telecoms infrastructure and staff, calling online stories linking coronavirus to 5G “utterly baseless.”

“This is now a matter of national security,” he said. “Police and counter-terrorism authorities are investigating. But rest assured that our mobile and broadband networks remain resilient and that you, your families and businesses, will stay connected."

British mobile network operator EE called the burning of one of its cell towers in Birmingham an arson. Video of the burning tower -- which wasn't a 5G mast -- was posted online last week. EE said it will work with local police to identify the arsonists.

“This site served thousands of people in the Birmingham area, providing vital 2G, 3G, and 4G connectivity as it has done for many years,” told an EE spokesperson to CNBC. “We will try to restore full coverage as quickly as possible, but the damage caused by the fire is significant.”

Stephen Powis, national medical director for England, said the 5G conspiracy theories are “the worst kind of fake news.”

“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,” said Powis. “It is absolute and utter rubbish.”