Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Psst. You. Yes you. What if I told you that those pesky new 5G towers that already ruined the beauty of your bucolic neighbourhood are just a ploy to give you and your children coronavirus? That the virus is a bioweapon released to destroy the world’s economy? It would be unbelievable and outrageous!
Well, it is exactly that. Unbelievable. It might also seem unbelievable that in a time of unprecedented worldwide crisis, people believe in theories with no real scientific or logical basis – but the fact is that these situations are fertile ground for conspiracies. In turn, conspiracies are fertile ground for mocking with informed derisiveness.
There are many pieces of misinformation spreading, but this piece only focuses on the biggest - that of 5G contributing to the spread of COVID-19 because 1. My editor says I can only write 800 words and 2. Laziness is a parasite that will suck your soul dry. Unfortunately, this means WeChat forwards claiming garlic wards off coronavirus and my dad’s classic ‘red chili kills all viruses’ miss out.
Substantial fear has been brewing regarding 5G towers in countries all around the world. Not due to legitimate concerns like the increased strain on phone batteries, the increased strain on our wallets or the tiny range of 5G given the ability of objects like trees to block signals – seriously, who thought this was a good idea? No, the fear stems from the myth that 5G towers are spreading coronavirus. Conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination groups, you know – the usual suspects, theorise with their combined 0 years of scientific research experience that 5G damages the body and depresses the immune system , increasing our susceptibility to whatever disease they’re capable of spelling correctly.
The 5G Conspiracy
Ideally, the spirit of science is to be receptive to new ideas, taking each theory and hypothesis as plausible. However, when ‘social media > scientific research’, ‘*scoffs* experts’ and ‘I bet that’s what the government wants you to think’ are the only responses to criticism, what can be done?
As unfair as it is, I’ve been told I need to prove my argument using science and research. Like most conspiracies, the 5G theory stems from a sliver of truth. Radiation can be dangerous. Radiation from the sun causes skin cancer and so we apply sunscreen (though this is being “debunked” by “intellectuals” like Pete Evans); X-rays from medical machines increase risk of developing cancers  and gamma rays turns you into a giant green Marvel character, or less horrifically, a character in HBO’s Chernobyl.
To understand why 5G and coronavirus are not connected despite the “evidence” put forth requires an understanding of correlation and causation. Just because the rollout maps for 5G and coronavirus are similar does not mean 5G causes the spread of coronavirus. God forbid it be because densely populated areas are the places with greatest demand for 5G networks and where it is most conducive to rapid disease spread.
Furthermore, many inconsistencies exist within the 5G-COVID-19 argument. The 2 most popular theories floating around are that 5G weakens immune systems, and that 5G directly transmits the virus.
Admittedly, there have not been many scientific articles that prove 5G radiation does not cause cellular damage or weaken immune systems, either because research on this requires months-years to complete and is in progress or more plausibly, no scientist wants to waste their time on it.
‘HAH!’ I might hear you cry, ‘so 5G might cause coronavirus!’ Sure, the same way all US politicians are lizard people – these are all ridiculous assertions that those with the burden of proof have little evidence of. Furthermore, this was the exact public reaction to past 4G, 3G, 2G rollouts, as well as mobile phones , yet social media intellectuals and conspiracy theorists continue to spew garbage from their very own portable carcinogenic death machines.
The second claim – the one that asserts that 5G transmits the virus is as scientifically credible as CSI’s “zoom and enhance”. As any high schooler could tell you, COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, along with the common cold, influenza (flu) and other respiratory diseases spread through tiny droplets of water containing virus particles, and these droplets are usually breathed in but can also be transmitted through physical contact . These viral particles travel from the lungs of the infected, to their nose, their hands, others’ hands, others’ faces/noses and finally others’ lungs. How individuals jammed 5G into this is truly a 200IQ-big-brain-Albert-Einstein-esque manoeuvre.
This conspiracy has spread so far that 5G towers have been damaged and destroyed . As a testament to the amount of time they devoted into searching for the truth, many of these burnt towers did not host 5G communication technology, but rather 2G, 3G and 4G which are indispensable in our modern world, and likely what they used to share memes on their train ride to the protests. Good thing mass gatherings never spread highly infectious disease.
Conspiracies are an inevitable part of life. Our minds love to wander, to dream and to conjure up crazy scenarios in our search for simpler explanations – and we will be exploring this in a future article. But please, if you must invest in conspiracy, opt for something that poses less of a public health risk.
How about the moon landing hoax, the flat Earth theory or believing that your crush does indeed like you back since they texted you ‘oh sorry I didn't see this haha’ after a week, despite the ratio of your texts to theirs being 10:1. In the meantime, stay safe and have fun naming your Wi-Fi network “5G coronavirus hotspot”.
 Bogle, A., 2020. The Sinister 'Chain Of Influence' That Drives Conspiracy Theories Is Working Overtime On COVID-19. [online] ABC News. Available at: <https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-04-15/coronavirus-5G-vitamin-c-anti-vaccine-conspiracy-theories-spread/12145096>
 Shultz, A., 2020. Here's The Bonkers Conspiracy Theory Blaming 5G For The Coronavirus. [online] GQ. Available at: <https://www.gq.com/story/coronavirus-5g-conspiracy-theory-explained>
 Khan Academy. 2020. Evolution Of Viruses (Article) | Viruses | Khan Academy. [online] Available at: <https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/biology-of-viruses/virus-biology/a/evolution-of-viruses>
 McColl, N., Auvinen, A., Kesminiene, A., Espina, C., Erdmann, F., de Vries, E., Greinert, R., Harrison, J. and Schüz, J., 2015. European Code against Cancer 4th Edition: Ionising and non-ionising radiation and cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, 39, pp.S93-S100.
 Lin E. C. (2010). Radiation risk from medical imaging. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 85(12), 1142–1146. https://doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2010.0260
 Muhammad Adnan Shereen, Suliman Khan, Abeer Kazmi, Nadia Bashir, Rabeea Siddique. 2020. COVID-19 infection: Origin, transmission, and characteristics of human coronaviruses, Journal of Advanced Research, Volume 24, Pages 91-98, ISSN 2090-1232, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jare.2020.03.005.