Around 90 attacks targeting the UK’s telecommunications infrastructure have been reported during the coronavirus lockdown.
Derbyshire Police has called for witnesses to come forward over the most recent suspected arson attack, which targeted a mobile mast near Breadsall Hilltop at 2am on Sunday.
“We believe the fire was started deliberately and we are investigating,” the force stated.
There have now been around 90 similar arson and sabotage attacks since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown, according to MobileUK, the trade association for mobile network operators (MNOs).
It told Sky News that this number does not include incidents which took place over the current bank holiday weekend.
Representatives from the MNOs said there have been hundreds of incidents of violent and intimidating behaviour towards their staff and subcontractors.
A range of conspiracy theories about mobile communications appear to be encouraging these attacks, including a scientifically impossible theory that the antennas are actually causing the symptoms of COVID-19.
Another false theory suggests the pandemic is a hoax fabricated to give either the government – or various forms of secret powers controlling the government – greater control of the population using mobile phone technology.
Sky News found groups on Facebook calling for the harassment of 5G engineers, celebrating criminal damage to mobile phone masts, and sharing information on how to cause that damage.
Although that group was taken down following Sky News’ report, many groups remain on the website denouncing what they falsely claim is a fake virus and equating social distancing measures with tyranny.
A spokesperson for MobileUK previously told Sky News: “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.”
More than 36,700 people in the UK have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, out of more than 260,000 confirmed cases.
The UK’s fatality rate of 14.1% is one of the highest in the world – behind only Belgium, France and Italy.