The Incredible 5G and COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory

Last week it was David Icke and this week it’s TV presenter Eamonn Holmes who’s given media momentum to the conspiracy theory that suggests a link between the emergence of COVID-19 and the use of 5G.  What’s going on, why, and how?

The Conspiracy Theory

This particular theory, which has led to attacks on 5G masts, Google’s YouTube banning any videos relating to it, self-styled truth-sayer (and former Coventry goalkeeper and TV presenter) David Icke and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes being slammed in the media for their comments focuses on a suggested link between new phone technology and the emergence and spread of a real-life virus.

The theory quite simply suggests that the roll-out of 5G has, in some way, triggered the emergence of (and helped the spread of) a brand-new type of coronavirus, COVID-19.  Also, some allege that 5G phone signals may be suppressing human immune systems, thereby helping the virus to get a wider grip. 

To those who are most taken with (and most willing to act in relation to) this theory, attacking and destroying/disrupting 5G infrastructure appears to be a way to try and stop the spread of the virus. This has led to 5G masts being damaged.

What Did David Icke Say?

David Icke recently took part in a live-streamed interview, watched by a reported 65,000 people. In the interview, Mr Icke alleged a possible link between 5G and the COVID-19 health crisis, appeared to say that a continuation of 5G would lead to the end of human life, and alleged that when a vaccine is developed, it will somehow contain small microchips that will allow those who have been injected with it to be controlled.

This led to YouTube banning all videos promoting this theory from its platform.

What Did Eamonn Holmes Say?

In a recent daytime ITV programme, Eammon Holmes appeared to have said that no one knows whether the conspiracy theory that 5G masts help spread the novel coronavirus was true or not.

This led to Ofcom receiving 419 complaints and Mr Holmes being widely criticised in the media. Mr Holmes later said that there is no connection between the NHS crisis and 5G and that it is wrong and possibly dangerous to make the suggestion.

Equipment Attacked

Some believers in the theory are thought to have been behind arson attacks on 22 EE (BT) mobile network sites and 20 Vodafone sites over the Easter holiday.

“Complete Rubbish,” Says Expert

In a recent press release from Reading University, Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology said that "The idea that COVID-19 is caused by 5G mobile phone signals is complete rubbish" and went on to say, in relation to the electromagnetic waves that make up 5G radio signals,  "Electromagnetic waves are one thing, viruses are another, and you can't get a virus off a phone mast.  Similarly, sensible studies have failed to corroborate the claim that the signals emitted by 5G masts are able to suppress our immune systems."

Who Believes In Conspiracy Theories and Why?

According to many scholars and experts, the reasons why people choose to believe in conspiracy theories include:

- Some people in societies where there is a large gap between the governing and the governed classes and where there’s an oppositional culture create their own popular theories and don’t share those of the experts who are perceived to out of touch with ‘the people’.

- The need for easy answers and to see the world as simpler and more predictable than perhaps it is.

- Attempts by non-experts to make sense of information that doesn’t fit with their personal values, experience, and their own trusted beliefs, and evidence and the opinions of people they trust.

- Wanting to quickly make sense (and feel safe and in control) of your environment, and to maintain a positive image of ‘self’ and of the social group.

- Social proof – the fact that others who are perceived as important or influential appear willing to at least consider or even accept a theory.

- A preferred belief in things like intuition and truths of the heart rather than a simple acceptance of scientific facts.

- A gap between science and belief systems like religion which may go back hundreds of years and a rift between those who understand mathematics and science and those who don’t.

- Perceptions of a lack of convincing evidence to the contrary.  For example, back in 2013, more than one-third of Americans believed that global warming was a hoax (Swift), whereas 69% of Americans now believe it is happening.

Why Should Anyone Fear 5G?

Just as when mobile phones first became widely used, there were many popular theories linking serious health issues such cancer and brain tumours to prolonged exposure to low-energy, non-ionising electromagnetic radiation radio waves, like those in mobile phone signals.  It is interesting to note that this may not have been helped by, back in 2011, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classifying mobile phone radiation as a “possible” human carcinogen.

With 5G using 3 different Spectrum bands, including what some believe to be the potentially dangerous mmWave high-frequency spectrum, similar fears have been expressed, and some say that 5G signals could damage human cell DNA.

Not Enough Energy

In reality, this type of radiofrequency (RF) radiation does not have enough energy to ionise an atom or molecule, and therefore, is unlikely to have enough energy to damage cell DNA in a way that would harm it, for example by causing cancer. 

In fact, mmWave high-frequency spectrum technology appears to be quite some way from the maximum human RF absorption frequency of about 70MHz. Also, mmWave will mostly be deployed in a spectrum that suffers from high reflection rates - 24 to 29GHz.  This should mean that any absorption by the body will be confined to the surface layers of the skin rather than the deeper tissue that is reached by lower frequency radiation.

The science of radiation, and current evidence and limits relating to mobile phone use means that there’s nothing to directly suggest 5G mmWave poses any significant health risk.  That said, 5G is not in popular use yet, so more research will need to be done on the subject in future, and some critics still say that 5G technology appears to be getting introduced without enough pre-market safety testing.

Looking Ahead

The 5G and COVID-19 conspiracy theory has been frustrating and expensive for mobile operators and may be potentially dangerous for those who believe it, for those who come into contact with them, and for those people who need to communicate with loved ones at a time when they must be physically apart but may not be able to reach them due to damaged mobile phone infrastructure.

5G appears to represent a good opportunity for business.  Its increased speed and lower latency allows the downloading of films and games in seconds and watching them without any buffering, something which many people may at least have valued more in lockdown.  Also, many different types of businesses could benefit from improved connectivity with remote workers or with salespeople in remote areas.

O2 has also forecast that 5G could deliver time savings that could bring £6 billion a year in productivity savings in the UK and that 5G-enabled tools and smart items could save UK householders £450 a year in food, council and fuel bills. These things could be very important in supporting and strengthening recovering economies in future.