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Did 5G mobile technology help create Covid-19?

By Musembi Mutisya

​​Researcher​ & CivilTech Analyst


This is one of the most bizarre internet pieces of misinformation.

As the spread of Covid-19 is proving difficult to contain, so too is the misinformation surrounding it. One of the outrageous conspiracy theories blames Covid-19 spread to the 5G mobile technology. This baseless claim has gained traction online and offline in recent weeks.

The theories are of different versions. One version says 5G waves emit radiation which weakens the immune system, while another claims that 5G waves poison the body’s cells and make people more susceptible to infection. A further theory states that viruses can ‘travel’ on radio waves, and so that is why the virus is spreading so rapidly worldwide.

These theories have led to arson and vandalism on mobile phone towers and threats against engineers in many parts of the world, particularly in the UK. In some instances, technicians and engineers have been harassed on the job. This has put vital communication installations at risk during the health crisis

The theories are being fueled by different champs, from celebrities to researchers. Some post accusations of 5G network towers being “the real cause for the virus deaths.” Other claims centre on the idea that the virus originated in Wuhan, China, because the city had deployed 5G networks last year.

Actor Woody Harrelson, singer M.I.A. and Keri Hilson are among celebrities and influencers spreading such claims to their millions of followers. Pastor Chris Oyakhilome went out of his way to share a sermon demystifying the pandemic and 5G networks. Dr. Thomas Cowan, a medical practitioner, shared a video presentation arguing that the novel coronavirus was created by 5G networks.

Cowan claims that Africa is not as affected by the coronavirus outbreak because it is “not a 5G region”. Other theories are shared maps that try to correlate countries that had Covid-19 cases after they rolled out 5G.

None of these theories has any basis, as medical professionals, scientists, virologists, and biologists have all dismissed the claims.

To date, there are 34 countries with 5G network, but the virus has gained a foothold in 185 countries with confirmed Covis-19 cases worldwide including thousands of confirmed cases in Africa.

China, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States are among the top counties that lead in the commercial use of 5G. South Korea was the first to launch it in 2018, while in late October 2019, China rolled out the commercial use of 5G in 50 cities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) website indicates that extensive research has shown that no adverse health effects are resulting from “exposure to wireless technologies”. WHO further states that viruses can’t travel on radio waves or mobile networks.

5G, like previous generations of mobile networks, is a RF-based (radiofrequency) technology standard that uses electromagnetic (EM) wave to transmit information. EM-wave falls under non-ionizing radiations which can’t break chemical bonds, in other words too weak to cause harm on human tissue.

The possible side-effects of 5G are the same as 4G, 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi. All these mobile communication technologies use EM waves that fall under non-ionizing radiations. Other types of technology that use the same radio waves include smart meters, TV and radio transmitters, and radar and satellite communications.

According to the WHO, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.

Though the source of the virus is unknown, available evidence suggests that it has a natural animal origin and is not a constructed virus. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

In the 2003 SARS outbreak, the SARS virus (SARS-CoV) was believed to have jumped from an animal to humans and then spread between humans.

The baseless theories have prompted YouTube to remove content claiming links between 5G and coronavirus while Facebook has deleted multiple messages encouraging the vandalism of the phone network. WhatsApp has also initiated an interactive chatbot to provide official information to tackle coronavirus myths.

If you see misinformation, please call it out. Your help will make a real difference.

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