Fact Check: 5G not causing, aiding the spread of coronavirus
As countries around the world battle to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, there have been several claims around the disease which has killed more than 70, 000 persons worldwide.
The most recent claim about the virus is the insidious links between the rollout of 5G networks and coronavirus. The claims ride on, at least, two conspiracy theories: firstly, that 5G might suppress the immune system and, secondly, that viruses can communicate through radio waves, hence, thereby causing the coronavirus pandemic.
The claims have gone viral on social media including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, as much as the virus, and have sparked outrages and fear in different parts of the world. Recently mobile phone masts were set on fire in Birmingham and Merseyside.
What is 5G?
5G is a wireless mobile network that was deployed in 2019 to help improve telecommunications and mobile connectivity.
It works at a higher wave frequency than its predecessors in order to allow for this upgrade in usage.
Does 5G cause/aid the spread of coronavirus?
The right answer to this question is NO, experts say, noting that neither of the two theories is backed up by any evidence.
“There is no credible evidence that supports this idea,” Yusuf Sambo, a lecturer at the James Watt School of Engineering and 5G testbed lead, told The Guardian Nigeria.
“Coronaviruses are known to originate from mammals and birds, and some get transmitted to humans,” he added.
The claims are “complete rubbish,” Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told BBC.
“The idea that 5G lowers your immune system doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” Dr Clarke says.
“Your immune system can be dipped by all sorts of thing – by being tired one day, or not having a good diet. Those fluctuations aren’t huge but can make you more susceptible to catching viruses.”
No evidence that 5G networks are harmful to health
Like the older generations of wireless network technology (4G, 3G and 2G), 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves. Radio waves are a small part of a wider electromagnetic spectrum of waves, which all emit energy called electromagnetic radiation. Radio waves are found at the low-frequency end of the spectrum and—alongside microwaves, visible light and heat—only produce non-ionising radiation.
This means that these waves cannot damage the DNA inside cells, which is how waves with higher frequencies (such as x-rays, gamma rays and ultraviolet light) are thought to cause cancer.
To improve the speed and capacity of our wireless technology, 5G uses a higher frequency of radio waves compared to its previous generations. The frequency of this new wireless technology remains very low: the maximum levels of electromagnetic radiation measured by Ofcom were about 66 times smaller than the safety limits set by international guidelines.
Sambo also maintained that there is “no credible evidence” linking radiofrequency waves, including 5G and all previous generations of mobile systems, with cancer,” adding that there are even “regulatory limits” on radiation from mobile systems and all equipment manufacturers and operators.
Nigerian Communications Commission in a statement on Sunday said the “radiation emission limits” is set by the International Commission for Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and all network providers in Nigeria are “well below the set limits.”
Coronavirus is spreading to countries without 5G
Another reason to debunk the conspiracy theories is that “the new coronavirus is spreading in places without 5G networks.
Nigeria is the only country in West Africa that has “tried” 5G for three months and there is presently no 5G network in Nigeria, yet the country has recorded over 200 coronavirus cases. Most of the other West African countries that do not have the 5G network have also recorded cases of the coronavirus.
Also, there are many parts of the UK that do not have 5G coverage but are still affected by the virus (for example, Milton Keynes and Portsmouth).
There are no 5G networks at all in Iran, yet this country has been severely affected by coronavirus. At least 3,872 have died in that country.
Sambo maintained that the claims and theories are “just absurd rumours” and urged the public not to pay attention to them.