5G is not accelerating the spread of the new coronavirus

31 March 2020
What was claimed

5G WiFi networks could be responsible for the rapid spread of the new coronavirus.

Our verdict

This is not true. There is no evidence that 5G WiFi networks are linked to the new coronavirus.

“Fears 5G wifi networks could be acting as 'accelerator' for disease”

Daily Star, 26 March 2020 

The Daily Star has reported on “a new conspiracy theory” surrounding the new coronavirus: that 5G networks could be responsible for the rapid spread of the virus.

As we have written before, there is no evidence to suggest that 5G has anything to do with Covid-19—the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The headline quoted above has now been changed by the Daily Star to read “Coronavirus: Activists in bizarre claim 5G could be acting as 'accelerator' for disease” and includes a statement by the UK government to say there is "no convincing evidence that 5G is dangerous".

The article refers to two theories to support the claim that 5G accelerates the new coronavirus. Firstly that 5G might suppress the immune system and, secondly,  that viruses can communicate through radio waves. Neither of these theories is backed up by evidence. The new coronavirus is also affecting countries and regions where no 5G is present.

There is no evidence that 5G networks are harmful to health

Like the previous generations of wireless network technology (4G, 3G and 2G), 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves. Other types of technology that use radio waves include smart meters, TV and radio transmitters, and radar and satellite communications.

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 older 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.

Public Health England states that “the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health.”

The two theories given to support the 5G claim in the article are flawed

The Daily Star quotes an “activist and philosophy lecturer at the Isle of Wight College” saying that electromagnetic radiation from 5G suppresses the immune system, helping the virus to thrive. As mentioned above, the level of radiation from 5G is far below levels of electromagnetic radiation thought to cause damage to cells in the human body.

The second theory appears to be that “viruses "talk to each other" when making decisions about infecting a host”. This is not true. The Daily Star article links to a 2011 research paper which suggested that bacteria may produce electromagnetic signals to communicate with other bacteria. This hypothesis is disputed, and refers to bacteria and not viruses like the new coronavirus. 

The new coronavirus is also spreading in places without 5G networks. There are many parts of the UK that do not have 5G coverage yet, 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 Covid-19 (at the time of writing, Iran had the sixth-highest number of reported Covid-19 cases and fourth-highest number of deaths of 177 countries and regions in the world).

What is known about the spread of the new coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation says that every person with the virus infects, on average, between two and two and a half other people.

The new coronavirus is spread from person to person mainly through small droplets that people with Covid-19 sneeze, cough or exhale. The droplets can live on surfaces for many hours, meaning that the virus can be transmitted without direct contact with someone who is infected. There is some evidence to suggest that the virus may also be transmitted in the air, although the WHO warns that evidence from research conducted under “normal human cough conditions” is needed to show this.

For up to date information on how to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, see the advice issued by the NHS.

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