As the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, so too are rumours and conspiracy theories about the disease, this time in relation to the 5G technology. There have been viral posts on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and most recently, Whatsapp, claiming that the 5G technology is the cause of the infection.
FIRST, WHAT IS 5G?
5G, or fifth generation, is the latest of the wireless mobile phone technologies, first widely deployed in 2019. Just as other mobile technologies such as 4G, 3G and 2G, 5G data is transmitted over radio waves—a type of electromagnetic radiation. They are superfast and represent an evolution in telecommunication standards.
LINKED TO CORONAVIRUS?
The latest of the viral posts is from Dino Melaye, a former senator from Kogi state, who alleged there is a “powerful global force for economic interest trying to introduce the 5G into the global market” which would ultimately harm a lot of persons.
In a video shared via his Twitter page, Melaye, who has about 1.3m followers on the platform, added: “From my research, this coronavirus is really not the problem. The major problem is this 5G that has been delayed.
“It is the reaction from this 5G that has some biological interactions with our cells. 5G technology is a killer; 5G technology is what is now helping to mobilise flu that comes in (the) form of coronavirus.”
Melaye has yet to respond to TheCable’s inquiry on the source of his claim, but similar posts have also appeared online such as this one in which a user named Ravager_Girl claimed 5G towers will “kill a lot of people” in Nigeria.
ARE THESE CLAIMS TRUE?
There is no known link between the coronavirus and 5G technology, according to checks by TheCable, including from expert sources. While it is true that the 5G technologies were rolled out in China around the same time the coronavirus was discovered, there is no scientific evidence they pose any health risk much less causes the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says “a large number of studies have been performed over the last two decades to assess whether mobile phones pose a potential health risk (and) to date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”
It also says of the 5G technology: “Till date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies. Health-related conclusions are drawn from studies performed across the entire radio spectrum but, so far, only a few studies have been carried out at the frequencies to be used by 5G.”
The global body explains further that the main mechanism of interaction between radiofrequency fields and the human body is tissue heating, and that “radiofrequency exposure levels from current technologies result in negligible temperature rise in the human body.”
“As the frequency increases, there is less penetration into the body tissues and absorption of the energy becomes more confined to the surface of the body (skin and eye). Provided that the overall exposure remains below international guidelines, no consequences for public health are anticipated.” it adds.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says there is “no scientific evidence [that] currently establishes a definite link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses….”
The Public Health England also says while it is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an existing network or in a new area, “the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health.”
Such guidelines for limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields, as stipulated by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has limits of as high as 300GHz, whereas the maximum for 5G is around 26 GHz.
The UK’s department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) also argues that there is “absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.”
Even UK media outlets have been warned not to promote “conspiracy theories” about links with 5G and coronavirus,
This does not mean some scientists do not think otherwise. Experts such as Camilla Rees, a senior policy advisory at the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy, writes on the hazardous effects of phone radiation on health, but there is no generally accepted scientific proof to this yet.
‘CORONAVIRUS IS 5G’
A number of the claims on the social media, also re-echoed by Melaye, suggests that the current pandemic is as a result of exposure to the 5G technology and not the coronavirus.
One of those posts, a tweeted video which has been viewed more than a thousand times, and archived here, says: “…it is not the virus killing you or making you sick, it’s 5G towers.”
But contrary to the claim, most of the countries where the coronavirus have spread to do not have a 5G network.
While the coronavirus has spread to about 200 countries, the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) – the umbrella body for companies across the worldwide mobile ecosystem – reports that the fully mobile 5G services have been launched in about 40 countries.
HOW THEN IS CORONAVIRUS SPREAD? RADIO WAVES?
No, not radio waves. These waves are non-ionising, meaning they don’t damage the DNA inside cells, as other waves such as X-rays, gamma rays and UV rays are able to do.
WHO says people contract COVID-19 from others who have the virus, meaning it is through human-to-human transmission. The disease can spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.
It adds that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.
The coronavirus does not have any link with 5G technology which in itself has not been scientifically proven to be harmful to health.