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The theories range from 5G radiation – and not the novel coronavirus – being the true cause of sicknesses to claims that the radiation is damaging people’s immune systems, thus making them more likely to contract the virus.
Proponents of these theories say that COVID-19’s emergence in China late last year coincided with the country’s rollout of one of the largest 5G networks in the world.
The theory falls apart on multiple fronts when deconstructed. For starters, South Korea and some U.S. cities started launching 5G networks earlier last year. If 5G and COVID-19 were indeed linked, the world would have seen its first cases in either South Korea or the U.S., and not China.
Second, there has been no definitive consensus on the health effects of 5G. 5G, or “5th-generation” of wireless technology spans a range of electromagnetic frequencies.
While radio waves on the higher end of the electromagnetic spectrum can indeed be harmful, the radio waves emitted by 5G towers are on the lower end of the spectrum.
Health officials say the virus spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. A preprint published last month by health researchers showed that the virus can last for up to 24 hours on cardboard, three days on plastic or stainless steel, and even hours in the air after someone sneezes.
Still, the 5G theory has gained traction online. Former “Cheers” TV star Woody Harrelson recently posted on his Instagram a report linking 5G with the coronavirus.
“I haven’t fully vetted it I find it very interesting,” he wrote, adding that “5G radiation” is “exacerbating” the contagion’s spread and making it more lethal.
Singer M.I.A. has also tweeted about the supposed dangers 5G technology. Although admitting she didn’t believe that 5G directly cause COVID-19, she said it can “confuse or slow the body down in healing process as body is learning to cope with new signals…”
Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, derided such “conspiracy theorists,” in an interview with the U.K.’s Evening Standard, calling them a “public health danger who once read a Facebook page.”
“The celebrities fanning the flames of these conspiracy theorist should be ashamed,” he said.
5G theories have been behind multiple acts of vandalism. In recent weeks, 5G cell towers in the United Kingdom have been set ablaze, videos of which were posted online claiming a link between 5G technology and the COVID-19 crisis.
The spate or arsons prompted the U.K.’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport to post on its Twitter page last Friday: “There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.