5G and the coronavirus: the one myth we’ve all heard of

5G does not cause the coronavirus. But how exactly does 5G work?

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The spread of disinformation online is one of the major challenges our society faces today. 📷 European Union, 2020

Recently, people and companies have had to rely on telework and remote collaboration. The need to expand and strengthen connectivity has become pressing for an ever-growing number of users. However, the crisis has also raised concerns about the very technology that can deliver just that. Much confusing information has spread on social media, with many claiming a link between 5G technologies and the spread of coronavirus. This has brought harmful and real consequences, such as the burning down of 5G antennas and physical attacks on workers installing the infrastructure. We have asked our experts to provide some facts about these presumed links.

Many noticed that Wuhan was very advanced on 5G rollout, and suspected a possible link with the outbreak of coronavirus in that region. But coronavirus has spread also in many countries that do not have 5G installations. Claims that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan due to China’s 5G network are unfounded and dangerous. That is why the EU institutions, countries, and many online platforms are actively identifying and fighting the spread of conspiracy theory content that links the coronavirus to 5G networks. The EU-funded SOMA project and its network of fact-checkers have been working to debunk these claims.

For the EU, citizens’ health comes first. The EU has strict and conservative recommendations protecting its citizens. As far as exposure from wireless devices, the EU has put exposure for the public at a limit which is at least 50 times lower than what international scientific evidence, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggests can have any effect on health. The EU sets these limits according to international standards and guidelines published by ICNIRP, the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection. Since the use of the first generation of wireless technology, the EU has continuously been working on assessing safety limits. ICNRIP updated their guidelines in March 2020 and found that current limits were appropriate for 5G. The EU is in the process of assessing these new guidelines. It is important to note that 5G networks will use small cells with lower power levels and therefore lower and more evenly distributed exposure levels than the existing large antennas in 4G networks.

5G is the 5th generation of mobile networks designed to meet society’s increased data and connectivity demands at greater speeds. It is currently rolled out in several countries around the globe. 5G will transform our economy and society. It will make new services possible in healthcare, energy, transport or education.

In particular, 5G will bring many benefits to our societies and economies and enable Europeans to make the best of the most recent technology. Greater capacity, higher speed and lower latency, or shorter response times, will enable more users, more data and faster connections for new services. In healthcare, doctors will be able to quickly and reliably transfer large files, like MRIs, to treat patients faster. 5G can make real-time, high-quality video-sharing widely available, allowing virtual medical visits, providing remote specialised healthcare and diagnoses. The green transition to a cleaner, more sustainable future will get a boost! Thanks to one of the major benefits of 5G networks — reduced lag and unprecedented network response speed — we will see ready innovations applied to conserve resources. Families and entire cities can optimise energy consumption based on real-time needs with smart homes and connected streetlights to reduce traffic. What’s more, traffic can become more manageable and using a car can be safer — with connected cars able to share information about the road ahead and self-driving vehicles reducing accidents caused by human error. Businesses will also jump on board the many possibilities available. Faster, stable connections will support emerging business needs, allowing precise remote equipment operations and monitoring from a distance.

We should be careful not to get carried away by rumours about coronavirus and 5G. These ideas have existed before — there are examples of conspiracy theories regarding 5G (and 2G, 3G and 4G) which were around long before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. But even if our concerns are understandable, we should not rely on an overly simple and straightforward answer to a complex scientific question. Blaming 5G for the outbreak and spreading coronavirus takes awareness away from the real struggle we are all facing, but it could also impede access to more stable, reliable connectivity, which has been holding us together in times when we need it most.

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Official Medium account of @EU_Commission | Stories, posts & articles about our work. Our social media policy: https://ec.europa.eu/info/social-media-use

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