Social media platforms are once again abuzz with conspiracy theories around 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic.
One such claim asserts that the second wave of COVID-19 in India is due to the testing of 5G towers. The claim goes on to state that “just like the previous generation of mobile networks (4G) killed birds, the 5G network will cause the end of animals and humans”. The post asks people to protest against setting up of these towers.
However, we found that the claims made in the viral post are not backed by any evidence. 5G trials in India are in their early days and only small-scale tests have been conducted so far. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health have said that there is no evidence linking the COVID-19 cases/deaths to 5G networks.
The text in the viral message, originally in Hindi claims that the second wave had risen due to the testing of 5G towers. It further alleges that the radiation from the tower makes the air poisonous and that’s why people are having trouble breathing.
The claim goes on to list the "adverse" impacts of 4G, 5G and radiation and asks people to protest against the technology.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
Mobile phones transmit and receive radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF EMF) and what makes the 5G network faster than the previous generations of telecom networks is the use beam-forming technology, which lets different users to RF EMF frequencies without interference.
5G utilises higher EMF frequencies (>24 GHz) in addition to those currently used frequencies (<4 GHz).
India has been adhering to the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines since 2009 that limits exposure to electromagnetic fields. The guidelines ensure that the exposure to EMFs does not cause any harm to human health.
Such claims around 5G causing COVID-19 have been circulating since the WHO labelled the disease as a pandemic in March 2020. The Quint has reported on how these claims were baseless and lacked scientific evidence.
CLAIM 1: DID 5G TRIALS CAUSE THE SECOND WAVE OF COVID-19?
The trials for 5G network are at a nascent stage in India and telecom companies are still waiting for the nod from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). A report published in The Economic Times on 30 March 2021 said that “DoT is yet to schedule India’s maiden 5G spectrum sale”.
Another report published in The Economic Times on 12 March added that only Bharti Airtel had started the development of 5G network technology and had started limited testing. Other companies like Reliance Jio, Vodafone and the BSNL are still waiting for the DoT's clearance.
A Qualcomm report published in December 2020, that talked about the global allocated/targeted 5G spectrum, showed that India had not allocated any of the 5G spectra. However, COVID-19 cases have been reported in the country since March 2020.
The Qualcomm report also mentioned other countries using its 5G network. Despite using 5G networks, countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Korea have fewer coronavirus cases than India.
There is no scientific evidence to prove that 5G radiation can cause COVID-19 cases or deaths.
“Viruses cannot travel via radio waves/mobile networks. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks,” the WHO has stated.
In another blog on 5G radiation, the WHO said, “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”
CLAIM 2: DID 4G RADIATIONS KILL BIRDS?
In January 2021, The Quint's WebQoof team had debunked a claim that birds were dying as Reliance Jio was conducting tests for 5G spectrum. The claim was shared in the context of the bird flu outbreak in India.
The Quint had reached out to Dr Radha Krishan Verma, additional director, radiology department, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, to understand the impact of radiation on birds who had said that there was no conclusive evidence of any direct effect.
Speaking to fact-checking website Snopes in 2018, Chairman of ICNIRP Dr Eric van Rongen had said that the radiations from mobile towers were not capable of killing birds.
“The only way one could imagine death of birds due to electromagnetic fields is via very high-level exposure that results in considerable heating. But the levels that are used by mobile telecom antennas are not strong enough for this to happen. There are maybe millions of such antennas around the world and this has never been reported,” he said.
It is important to note that while there is no data to prove that the radiation kills birds, there have been reports that show an impact on their navigation and orientation.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest constituted an experts’ group in 2010 to study the possible impacts of communication towers on wildlife, including birds and bees. The group studied 30 reports on the effects of EMF and 23 of those concluded that EMF may have varying negative impacts on birds.
Evidently, the claim that 5G testing caused the second wave of COVID-19 in India and that radiation from 4G network killed birds is false. There is no evidence to prove that 5G networks have any relationship with the spread of the coronavirus.
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. Read more on WebQoof by The Quint.5G Testing Caused the Second COVID Wave? Viral Post Lacks Evidence‘Getting All Support From Indian Govt’: SII CEO Amid Threats Row . Read more on WebQoof by The Quint.