As COVID-19 spreads around the globe, infecting 4.7 million and killing more than 300,000, conspiracy theories are also growing – spreading dangerous misinformation to people who are already anxious and uncertain about the future.
The latest and perhaps most pervasive conspiracy theory to emerge focuses on 5G, and its connection to the current coronavirus pandemic. In recent weeks, search terms like ‘is 5G safe,’ ‘5G health effects,’ and ‘5G radiation coronavirus,’ have spiked, as the theory makes its way into the mainstream.
A quick search on Facebook and you’ll find hundreds of groups and thousands of followers discussing and dissecting the symptoms of coronavirus, and describing it as ‘5G poisoning’. Some of the groups go as far as to say that every major health epidemic in the last century has been linked to increases in radio waves from telecommunications – from the Spanish flu in 1918 to SARS in 2003.
Let’s take a deeper look into what 5G actually is, and consider whether there’s any validity to the theory that it’s somehow related to COVID-19.
What is 5G?
You’ll all be familiar with ‘3G’ and ‘4G’ and the fact that 4G is far better quality than its predecessor.
5G is the next upgrade, and it was created because we’re still using the same radio frequency bands we’ve been using since before smartphones were as advanced as they are now.
5G uses millimetre waves on a higher frequency between 30 and 300 gigahertz and will be about 60 times faster than 4G.
Satellite operators and radar systems already utilise this space, but it does have its limitations. It can’t, for example, travel though buildings very well and they [the waves] can be absorbed by trees and rain.
So in order to allow 5G to exist in this space, more antenna are needed in closer proximity – which is what’s happening now around Australia and the world.
Where did the 5G conspiracy theories start?
Anti-5G conspiracists aren’t new. When the Australian 5G rollout was announced in May last year, the voices of those who questioned its safety came in thick and fast.
A video by activist Jessie Reimers was shared tens of thousands of times, claiming that the 5G network had “cancer causing properties”.
Reimer’s video told us the idea that “radio frequency radiation is harmful to living organisms was formed from a literature base of over 10,000 peer reviewed studies”.
As Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, one of Australia’s most well-known science commentators told The Quicky back in July, “All of those statements are incorrect. By piling all of these things together you give the impression that there’s a whole heap of peer reviewed literature proving radiation causes cancer and has bad health effects and the straight answer is – no.”