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Experts Dismiss Claims Linking 5G Technology to Coronavirus


Pedestrians walk past an advertisement promoting the 5G data network at a mobile phone store in London, Britain, January 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Experts Dismiss Claims Linking 5G Technology to Coronavirus
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Technology and medical experts are dismissing a theory linking the new coronavirus to 5G wireless equipment.

Officials in Britain have blamed the theory for leading to the destruction of mobile phone transmitters in different parts of the country.

Britain’s Cabinet Officer Michael Gove was asked about the idea that 5G telecommunications equipment could play a part in the spread of the coronavirus. “That is just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well,” he said.

The communications technology called 5G is the next generation of wireless technology. Companies around the world have been working to build 5G networks to replace 4G systems. 5G promises much higher internet speeds. Currently, 5G service remains very limited in many areas of the world, and not many 5G mobile devices are available.

Employees wait for a shuttle bus at a 5G testing park at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China May 29, 2019. Picture taken May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Employees wait for a shuttle bus at a 5G testing park at Huawei's headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China May 29, 2019. Picture taken May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Some reports appearing online have linked the new coronavirus to the launch of 5G in major Chinese cities in late October 2019. The first coronavirus cases first began to be reported in areas around Wuhan, in central China, in December.

In Britain, officials said one of the most serious incidents was a fire attack on a mobile phone tower in the city of Birmingham. The officials said the fire caused major damage although no 5G equipment was attached to the tower.

The medical director for Britain’s National Health Service, or NHS, Stephen Powis, said the theory linking 5G to the coronavirus was false news with no scientific support.

He told Reuters news agency the destruction of equipment can only hurt the country’s emergency efforts to deal with the coronavirus crisis. “The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us,” Powis said.

Security personnel walk next to a 5G enabled autonomous vehicle, installed with a camera filming blooming cherry blossoms for an online live-streaming session, inside the closed Wuhan University, in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 17, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS
Security personnel walk next to a 5G enabled autonomous vehicle, installed with a camera filming blooming cherry blossoms for an online live-streaming session, inside the closed Wuhan University, in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 17, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

A group representing Britain’s major mobile phone operators said some of its workers had been threatened. Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile operator, said the destruction of equipment was now a matter of national security. The company’s head in Britain, Nick Jeffery, condemned the attacks.

He said he does not understand why anyone would “want to harm the very networks that are providing essential connectivity to emergency services, the NHS and the rest of the country.” Jeffery described his engineers as heroes and urged people not to spread false information online.

Fabien Heliot is a researcher at Britain’s University of Surrey who studies the safety of wireless radio waves. He told the French news agency AFP that there is no evidence to suggest any 5G technology could cause a virus. Since a virus is a living thing, it cannot be created by radiation, Heliot said.

Police are seen on Bournemouth beach, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Bournemouth, Britain, April 5, 2020.
Police are seen on Bournemouth beach, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Bournemouth, Britain, April 5, 2020.

He added that any possible side effects of 5G radiation would be the same as with other older systems, including 4G, 3G and 2G. He said this is because all the wireless technologies use the same waveforms to radiate energy.

The World Health Organization’s website says that a large number of studies have been carried out on whether mobile phones bring health risks. “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use,” the WHO said.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the World Health Organization. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

transmitter n. piece of equipment used to send out radio signals

nonsense n. not true; silly

tower n. a tall, narrow structure

critical adj. very important for the way things will happen in the future

essential adj. very important or necessary

side effect n. a secondary and usually negative effect of something (such as a drug)

adverseadj. things that cause problems or danger

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