As people try to make sense of the world that they live in currently, often with limited information and understanding, conspiracy theories often arise. One such conspiracy theory that is making the rounds is that 5G is the cause of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The conspiracy that 5G is being used to spread COVID-19 has been widely shared by people in the USA and UK, it has been doing rounds on social media in many other Afrikan countries such as Nigeria and South Africa. There are even petitions asking some governments to stop the deployment of 5G networks in their countries.
Feeding this theory that 5G is used to spread COVID-19 infections is the fact that China is the clear leader as far as the deployment and development of 5G is concerned. This relates to the origin of the disease in China, then spread across Europe and the USA. Afrika has very low 5G installations, and the low penetration of the virus in Afrika is the second evidence that 5G is the killer, according to the conspiracy theorists.
Correlation vs Causation
So, is there a relationship (correlation) between the COVID-19 disease (map of countries it is mostly spread in) and 5G networks?
As of today, yes.
Does 5G cause COVID-19, or accelerate its spread?
The argument that 5G causes COVID-19 is very weak, as correlation does not mean causation.
To use another analogy, it is possible to show that people with iPhones are more likely to contract COVID-19, or people who never travel are less likely to contract the disease.
Is it that people with iPhones have a lower immunity?
Of course, no.
It is just that COVID-19 has hit harder in developed countries, where iPhones are more common. In the same way, people who do not travel much are not at risk because they have little contact with the virus, not that their immune system is superior.
Besides, people barely understand what 3G, 4G, 5G are in terms of their technical specifications and how they work. What people know is that 3G is good, 4G is fast and 5G will be very fast. The details of how they work remain a black box to many.
In a real sense, the side effects of 5G are the same as those of 2G, 3G, 4G, or even WiFi. This means that if you think that 5G is about to cause the spread of COVID-19, you should start by destroying all your WiFI routers and smartphones, then moving to live in a jungle where any telecommunications signal does not reach.
When it comes to conspiracy theories, facts don't matter
Unfortunately, when it comes to conspiracy theories, scientific facts and logic do not always work.
As stated earlier, conspiracy theories are usually an attempt to make the world make more sense, based on people’s level of understanding and knowledge. This can sometimes be challenged with information.
In other cases, people believe in conspiracy theories because they want to be special or different. They do not want to believe what everyone believes and are looking for anything that makes them different and stands out. For such people, information or proof would not make them believe otherwise. Their belief in conspiracy theories is rooted in their identity and personality.
With this in mind, it is hard to dispel conspiracy theories or agree on the source. However, one thing we should all agree on is that we need to stay home as much as possible, keep a safe distance from people, wash hands often, cover up when coughing and call first instead of going physically to the hospital when symptoms show up.
This is an updated version of an article that was initially published in 2020.
— By Jacob Mugendi