When celebrities say something, people tend to listen, even when what they have to say is totally out there. Case in point: A new conspiracy theory being spread by famous people that claims that the novel coronavirus was caused by 5G networks.
In case you’re not familiar with it, 5G is the next generation of wireless technology that’s currently being rolled out worldwide. It’s a feature that cell phone companies like to brag about, and it’s slowly getting more popular.
Now, several celebrities are spreading a conspiracy theory that COVID-19 is actually linked to 5G networks. One of them is rapper M.I.A., who has been vocal about her hatred for 5G. She suggests that the network can leave people more vulnerable than usual to COVID-19. “I don’t think 5G gives you COVID19,” she wrote on Twitter in late March. “I think it can confuse or slow the body down in healing process as body is learning to cope with new signals wavelength s frequency etc @ same time as Cov.”
Actor Woody Harrelson also wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post that he was suspicious that 5G networks were installed in Wuhan, China (where COVID-19 first emerged) around the time of the outbreak.
And singer Keri Hilson shared an Instagram post in mid-March (that’s also been deleted) that African countries didn’t have severe cases of COVID-19 because “Africa is not a 5G region,” per Huff Post. (Since her post, several countries in Africa, including South Africa and Cameroon, have seen outbreaks of the virus.)
The comments on these posts have been mixed: Some people are criticizing these celebrities for spreading information that isn’t proven by the scientific community, while other say they’re also suspicious of 5G.
What’s the deal here? Tl;dr: The 5G novel coronavirus conspiracy theory is totally bogus, but allow me to explain.
What exactly is the 5G novel coronavirus conspiracy?
It’s hard to say exactly where this theory began, but the Facebook group Stop 5G U.K. is one of its biggest advocates. One post on the group’s page claims that upgrades in network tech have historically coincided with infectious disease outbreaks. They claim the launch of 3G coincided with influenza (which was around before then, but…), the launch of 4G matched up with the spread of H1N1, and the launch of 5G with COVID-19.
The theory seems to have two camps: One thinks that 5G actually causes novel coronavirus; the other thinks that it weakens people’s immune systems, allowing the virus to spread.
Once coronavirus began spreading in the U.S., people started sharing maps online that pointed out that areas that were hit the hardest by COVID-19 were also areas where 5G had been installed (mostly cities and metropolitan areas).
Of course, viruses are more likely to spread in parts of the country where there are more people—regardless of the technology in that place, says Dr. Richard R. Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University.
Also, keep in mind that Iran has been hit incredibly hard by the virus, and it just finalized preparations to bring 5G to the country, per MSN. India, which has nearly 7,000 cases of the virus, also doesn’t have 5G yet, according to The Economic Times.
And then there’s the not-so-minor fact that there’s zero evidence that 5G causes COVID-19 or helps it spread.
Here’s how 5G actually works
5G is advertised as the next big thing in wireless technology. It’s faster than 4G, has a higher bandwidth, and can support all kinds of new technology, according to Verizon. Sprint promises “blazing fast” download speeds and “robust connections” with its 5G.
5G networks can be built in a few different ways using various bands of wavelength spectrum—low-band (long waves that have a huge range), mid-band (medium waves that can cover broad areas), and high-band (short waves that an transmit over small areas), according to T-Mobile. Those bands together help frequencies carry more data, have more speed and coverage, and penetrate more obstacles to bring information to more people and places.
The signals run over new radio frequencies, and radios and cell tower equipment have needed updates to bring 5G to more people, CNN says.
As most new tech does, 5G is largely rolling out in bigger cities first.
Why the novel coronavirus 5G theory is totally bogus
There’s actual, scientific evidence to show how COVID-19 spreads, and how it started—and nothing points to the novel coronavirus having anything to do with 5G.
The virus started in a wet market in Wuhan, China and a research article in the Journal of Medical Virology supports that. Researchers studied the genetic code of COVID-19 and found that the virus is most closely related to two strains of coronavirus that originated in bats. It is believed that bats infected one or more types of animals being sold at the wet market in Wuhan, and from there, the virus jumped to humans.
Speaking of which…every major medical organization, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the virus is spread from person to person—not through 5G. “There is no evidence that it can be spread by phone or internet networks,” Dr. Watkins says.
There’s also no evidence that 5G can leave people open to infection from the virus. “The amount of radiation exposure is extremely small and would not have any effect on the human immune system,” Dr. Watkins says.
In fact, the World Health Organization even says “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”
Dr. Watkins stresses that the 5G coronavirus theory is bogus. “There is no scientific evidence for this and alternative explanations about where COVID-19 came from are much more realistic,” he says. “People need to focus on social distancing and hand hygiene, and not conspiracy theories.”
The bottom line: 5G networks have nothing to do with the spread of COVID-19.
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