Mobile phone masts were torched and engineers abused over theories linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G technology.
The paranoia about 5G, the industry term for the fifth generation of wireless communications infrastructure, has risen in the last few years.
Like previous wireless network technology (4G, 3G and 2G), 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves. Other type of technology that use radio waves include smart meters, TV and radio transmitters, and radar and satellite communications.
Misinformation claiming the coronavirus is a bioweapon circulated since the outbreak began circulating in January.
A post on Facebook claims that Wuhan, China, the centre of the new coronavirus outbreak, was where 5G was first rolled out. It suggests that 5G has damaged peoples’ immune systems and so boosted the virulence of the common cold.
The post also listed 20 purported symptoms of 5G exposure, including shortness of breath and fever — symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.
Femi Fani Kayode, who has a large following of more than 900k people posted on twitter that:
Mr. President, Do NOT allow 5G in Nigeria & if you have already done so burn it. Do NOT accept face masks & other accessories from the Chinese to help prevent coronavirus. Do NOT accept help from Chinese doctors. Do NOT accept any anti-Coronavirus vaccines from ANYONE.
This has further heightened an already tense and scary situation, especially in a country where people easily believe information shared on social media.
Popular Hollywood actor, Woody Harrelson claimed it was footage of Chinese citizens destroying 5G towers but it was footage from last year’s pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The conspiracies are particularly popular among anti-vaccine and alternative-health Facebook groups and Instagram accounts, Politifacts of The Poynter Institute reported
In a March 30 Instagram post, which has more than 146,000 likes, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former US President John F. Kennedy, who is among the biggest sources of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook, promoted a conspiracy theory about 5G and the coronavirus.
“The quarantine has facilitated the unobstructed #5G rollout,” Kennedy said in his post, which echoes the claims made in the March 28 Facebook post.
There is no evidence that the coronavirus has anything to do with wireless technology.
- COVID-19 “is a zoonotic virus”, that is, it was spread from animals to humans — according to a report from 25 international experts, including some from China and the U.S., convened by the World Health Organization.
- Bats “appear to be the reservoir of COVID-19 virus,” but the intermediate host or hosts, that is, how it went from bats to humans, has not been identified.
- Many of the patients in Wuhan had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.
- While there’s zero fact to support a conspiracy theory linking the COVID-19 virus to 5G cellular technology, scientists have long operated under the assumption that radio waves, a non-ionizing form of radiation, were not harmful to biological material, but allowed for the possibility that subsequent research might demonstrate otherwise.
- Although the new coronavirus spreading in Wuhan has commonly been referred to by the media and others as just “coronavirus”, it is just one type within this family of viruses.
- Coronavirus is a broad category of viruses that includes the common cold, SARS (the severe acute respiratory syndrome of which there were outbreaks in 2002 and 2004).