5G doesn’t cause coronavirus. Here’s how we know

A short debunking of 5G conspiracy theories
By Stephen Jorgenson-Murray

Soon after China announced the first cases of the coronavirus disease now known as COVID-19, rumours appeared on social media that a new mobile phone technology known as 5G caused the outbreak. In the UK, these claims have exploded through WhatApp messages and Facebook groups and have even been shared by celebrities. Engineers working for phone and internet companies have been abused, and phone masts appear to have been deliberately set on fire.

Not only is there no evidence that 5G causes COVID-19, there is a lot of very strong evidence showing the real cause of the disease is an infectious virus that came from wild animals. Publicly available research from scientists around the world means we don’t have to just trust official statements – we can see this evidence for ourselves.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile phone technology. It covers a range of upgrades to the phone network that make internet connections faster and allow more people to use smartphones at the same time. It follows earlier mobile generations such as 3G and 4G, adding to them rather than replacing them. Although not yet universal, the first 5G networks have been switched on in the last couple of years.

All mobile phones, no matter whether they are smartphones or not, are linked by radio waves to the base station on the phone mast. The internet speed is limited by how much data can be broadcast on these waves. The term “5G” includes several different techniques to squeeze more data through those channels.


One is using a lot of smaller lower-powered base stations, instead of having one big central tower. Another is to “steer” that beam of radio waves to point it directly at the phone, so there’s less interference between different users, or to create more paths between the phone and the base station by bouncing the signal off walls or the ground.

Some 5G systems also use higher frequencies than 3G or 4G. This means that the phone transmits more waves each second, with the wavelength being shorter. This increases the amount of data which can be sent, but the shorter waves can be blocked by walls, or even by water in the air. These high-frequency systems are mostly still experimental and not yet used in phone handsets.

Not all 5G networks are the same, and different phone operators will use different combinations of these techniques. Many services currently marketed as 5G use the same frequencies as 4G, and although they manage faster internet speeds, from a physical perspective they aren’t significantly different to the phone networks that have been used for years.

How do we know 5G doesn’t cause COVID-19?

There is no plausible way for radio waves like 5G to cause lung disease, despite the online claims.

5G cannot weaken the body’s immune system or cause diseases such as cancer. As already said, current 5G systems mainly use the same frequencies to earlier phone networks – and often even use lower-powered transmitters. If 5G made people sick, earlier 3G and 4G systems would also. There have been many studies into the health effects of mobile phones over the last decades. Looking at all the evidence, Cancer Research UK has concluded that mobile phones – including 5G – are not a cancer risk, and a Europe-wide study found that radio waves from phones had no effect on immune function.

The virus cannot travel through 5G transmissions either. Viruses are made of similar kinds of materials to humans, such as proteins, fats and genes. This means that they are real, physical objects, and cannot be carried by any kind of radio waves, which are not solid and exist as electric and magnetic fields.

What is ‘Corona discharge’?

The power level of 5G radio waves is far too low to affect air molecules, meaning it cannot suck oxygen out of the air. In fact, air quality has improved since the pandemic began as factories close and people drive less.

Some claims connect the word “coronavirus” to an electrical effect called “corona discharge”. Although they have similar names, they are unrelated, and corona discharge – which is similar to a spark – only happens with very high voltages and strong electric fields. 5G transmitters do not produce corona discharge.

Scaremongering about 5G is not harmless

South Korea successfully limited a major outbreak by testing people widely and isolating anyone who was infected as well as those who had been in contact with them. South Korea has a large 5G network with over five million users, and if 5G caused COVID-19 then just quarantining people with the virus would not have stopped the disease in that country. Meanwhile, countries like Iran without significant 5G networks have also had major outbreaks.

Many readers will remember earlier scares about previous generations of mobile phone technology. 3G in the early 2000s and 4G in the early 2010s were also protested against by people who believed they posed a health risk – specifically, of cancer.

How do we know what does cause COVID-19?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus has been studied by hundreds of research groups across many different countries. These research groups are made of doctors and scientists who want to understand the disease, learn how it spreads, and find ways to treat and cure it.

These researchers have discovered the specific germ that causes the disease: SARS-CoV-2, a member of the coronavirus family. Samples taken from the nose or the lungs of COVID-19 patients show pieces of genes that come from the coronavirus, and with a powerful electron microscope, scientists can even see the virus itself. Blood tests on people who have the disease or have recovered from it also find antibodies that the body uses to fight viruses. All evidence points to this virus being the cause of COVID-19.

Comparing the genes from the COVID-19 coronavirus to other viruses shows that it is closely related to wild coronaviruses found in bats. The virus has also been found in animals in a market in Wuhan, China where the outbreak started. This is strong evidence that the disease spread to humans from wild animals, and that it was natural, not man-made.

The way that the disease spreads is also strong evidence for it being caused by an infectious germ like a virus. Health authorities have been able to track the way the disease spreads in long chains of infection. For example, one early international transmission chain resulted in several people being infected in Germany by a traveller from China. This makes sense if the disease is caused by a germ carried by people, but not if it’s caused by something like 5G in the local area.

Scaremongering about 5G is not harmless. It discourages people from taking measures such as social distancing to stop the virus, and among the most extreme fringes leads to attacks on the phone network at a time when communication is critically important. In this time of public health crisis, it’s more important than ever to debunk these myths and all make sure our efforts are focused where it counts: on protecting ourselves and others from the virus.