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On COVID-19 and 5G, Conspiracies Abound

April 9, 2020
Some people seem to think that the cure for the coronarvirus involves torching cellular sites.

With crises such as that posed by the raging coronavirus pandemic comes panic, and with panic comes distorted thinking, and with distorted thinking comes conspiracy theories. There’s lots of them floating around concerning the pandemic. For example, we’ve all heard the one about coronavirus being cooked up in some Chinese laboratory as part of a bioweapons development program. Naturally, someone in China countered with the notion that the virus originated in a U.S. military laboratory for much the same reasons.

Of course, millions are frightened by the rapid spread of coronavirus and its subsequent manifestation in humans as COVID-19, a disease which, as of this writing, has sickened 1.5 million people and killed at least 87,000 in over 180 countries around the globe. It’s no surprise that something so pernicious should be the subject of some good, old-fashioned conspiracy theories.

One of the wildest such theories, though, is one that hits close to home for everyone in the broadband-communications business. It’s the notion that 5G broadband communications equipment somehow causes and/or spreads coronavirus. Pretty weird, right? But it’s out there, and it’s not out there just a little bit. It’s out there a lot. So much so, in fact, and with so much credence being ascribed to it in some quarters, that broadband engineers in the U.K. have been verbally and physically attacked. The 5G infrastructure itself has suffered vandalism and arson in some places. The notion of a link between 5G and coronavirus has been spread on social media by certain celebrities (Woody Harrelson and John Cusack, to name two).

The idea that RF and/or microwave frequency emissions are somehow to be linked to disease isn’t new (see figure). Any researcher worth his or her salt will tell you that correlation doesn’t necessarily translate into causation. There have long been concerns that cellular technology and cell phones cause various cancers, for example. Lots of research has been conducted on putative links between cell phones and cancer, and little has turned up in the way of verifiable causation.

The ideas circulating today regarding 5G and coronavirus are rooted in long-standing ignorance of science and, one supposes, fear of change. Never mind that 5G is currently being developed and/or trialed in 88 countries by 224 mobile network operators, while coronavirus is, as mentioned above, found in over 180 nations. Never mind that the transformation of electromagnetic energy into organic matter within humans is not possible by any known means. And, never mind that any number of highly knowledgeable researchers and scientists have effectively debunked the whole idea.

For the telecommunications industry, this latest phony “health scare” should blow over rather quickly, no matter how many celebs post about it on Instagram. Social-media platforms have already wised up and begun removing such content. But it’s worth noting that some things never change. Just about any seismic technological shift will engender conspiracy theories; many people still believe that the moon landings were faked. After all, conspiracy theorists gonna theorize.