Reports of abuse to broadband engineers skyrocket due to bogus 5G conspiracy theory

Engineers have been attacked by people who mistakenly believe the coronavirus is caused by 5G.

Engineers have been attacked by people who mistakenly believe the coronavirus is caused by 5G. - Credit: Archant

Dozens ofOpenreach engineers in the South West have been subjected to verbal abuse and intimidation linked to a bogus 5G theory.

There have been 60 incidents reported since April 1, compared with just 42 for the whole of 2019.

The majority of these relate to theories circulating on social media that 5G is responsible for the coronavirus crisis.

Mobile phone masts have also been targeted in arson attacks as conspiracists claim the electromagnetic waves of the network have somehow induced the pandemic.

In Weston, two engineers were verbally abused while working on a broadband cabinet.

A man on a pushbike accused the engineers of causing cancer through 5G and, when he was ignored, threw a can of energy drink at one of the engineers.

Two further incidents have been reported in Weston, including one in which a member of the public threatened to beat up engineers.

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In other parts of the South West and the UK, dozens of engineers have been intimidated, including having bottles of water thrown at them, being threatened with physical harm, warnings that the Openreach network will be damaged, and a huge amount of verbal abuse. One person even pretended to shoot them with a finger gun.

Matthew Galley, Openreach’s partnership director for the South West, said: “These recent attacks on our engineers, here and elsewhere in the UK, are not only deeply concerning but totally misjudged. They’re playing a vital role in connecting crucial public services, vulnerable customers and millions of friends, families and businesses.

“They are not working on installing 5G.

“Our engineers are designated key workers and closely following Government guidance in terms of social distancing. At this time, they’re primarily focussed on the build, repair and maintenance of connections that support critical national infrastructure.

“This work includes the NHS – where our engineers have been installing and upgrading phone and broadband services in support of the new Nightingale hospitals, including in Exeter.”

Openreach engineers receive guidance and support in how to respond to any threats by members of the public where they feel unsafe and all incidents are reported to both an internal security team and the police if necessary.