Employees working for OpenReach were told to take care after blades and needles were found behind protest signs. It follows a rise in attacks on engineers which has been fuelled by a conspiracy theory which incorrectly claims the Wireless technology can spread the COVID-19.
OpenReach has recorded 68 incidents of verbal and physical abuse since April 1, up 61 percent.
The company, which runs the broadband network for a range of internet service providers, said 56 incidents (82 percent) were linked to protests against 5G.
Catherine Colloms, corporate affairs director at OpenReach, said: “A lot of it is verbal, a lot of it is quite unpleasant and really distressing for our engineers who are out there trying to do their job and keep the UK connected.
“We have had some instances of physical abuse, either threatened abuse or people have attacked, for example, an engineer’s van when they are working alongside it.”
She added engineers had wrongly been accused of installing the 5G network and causing both cancers and coronavirus causing an “escalation” of attacks in recent weeks.
Among these workers was Aaron Ashton-Jones who was on his way to help a vulnerable customer in Kent when a car pulled in front of his OpenReach-branded van.
The driver of the car then slammed on the brakes before getting out and shouting abuse.
Mr Ashton-Jones told the BBC: “He was shouting all sorts of horrible words.
OpenReach engineers are designated as key workers because they are carrying out nationally critical work.
This includes building new full fibre networks out in the street, but they won’t be entering customer’s homes unless there is a vulnerable customer without service.
Robert Thorburn, OpenReach’s regional partnership director for the North, said: “These recent attacks on our engineers is 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.”
An OpenReach spokeswoman, added: “We’ve received reports from other telecommunications companies that anti-5G posters have started to appear on street equipment – particularly in London.
“On closer inspection, the posters have had razor blades and needles stuck on the back. Fortunately none of our engineers have encountered these dangerous items, but we’ve given them guidance about what to do if they do find any.”
The theory originated in March after a video filmed at a US health conference claimed Africa was not as affected by the disease because it is “not a 5G region”.
It was debunked further when the World Health Organisation confirmed there were thousands of COVID-19 cases in Africa.
Following this, arsonists torched a number of 5G phone masts in the UK in response to online conspiracy theories.
The first incident occurred in Birmingham.
Published at Tue, 12 May 2020 14:17:00 +0000