Tentacles of lightning illuminate a stormy sky. Three people wear medical face masks, worry visible in their eyes. Next to those two images is one more that reads simply “5G” — a reference to the fifth-generation of wireless networking technology.
These ominous pictures accompany this headline on a story being shared widely on Facebook:
“Coronavirus Hoax: Fake Virus Pandemic Fabricated to Cover-Up Global Outbreak of 5G Syndrome.”
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Please strike this claim from your list of things to worry about: This is just one more coronavirus assertion without evidence. As we’ve mentioned before, the best available information is that this virus started with an animal.
The article appears on the Millennium Report, an anti-5G website that includes a section on the rollout of 5G, which “greatly endangers” the health of “every person in the USA.”
The article cites no verifiable evidence of this claim. Instead, it alleges that the coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China, was “staged to cover-up the public health crisis caused by the intensive 5G roll-out in Wuhan in 2019.” It attributes the information to an unnamed “intelligence analyst and former U.S. Army officer.”
5G is the latest upgrade to wireless systems that deliver data to mobile phones and other devices. As in, faster, faster, faster. It involves the federal government selling wireless spectrum used for the technology and more cell towers being located in populated rather than rural areas.
Is there reason to worry about possible health effects? Perhaps.
Joel Moskowitz, director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, supports a moratorium on 5G development. He wrote in Scientific American that there could be health effects and that research needs to be funded.
But other reports say fears are overblown:
- “The vast majority of evidence says there’s no reason to pause deployments.” — Rod Waterhouse, an electrical engineer, wireless-communications entrepreneur and editor of a report on 5G, speaking to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- “There’s little reason to think 5G frequencies are any more harmful than other types of electromagnetic radiation, like visible light.” — Wired magazine
- “The 5G Health Hazard That Isn’t — How one scientist and his inaccurate chart led to unwarranted fears of wireless technology.” — New York Times headline
These concerns about 5G aside, there is no evidence that the coronavirus has anything to do with wireless technology.
The current coronavirus — which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19 — is spreading internationally. As of March 8, 2020, it had been detected in more than 100,000 people in more than 100 countries, including in the United States.
Here’s what we know about how it emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China:
COVID-19 “is a zoonotic virus” — that is, it was spread from animals to humans — according to a report from 25 international experts, including some from China and the U.S., convened by the World Health Organization.
Bats “appear to be the reservoir of COVID-19 virus,” but the intermediate host or hosts — that is, how it went from bats to humans — has not been identified.
Such viruses often originate in bats, although they sometimes can jump to another species before infecting humans. Chinese researchers have found a possible link between COVID-19 and pangolins, a mammal entirely covered in scales.
Early on, many of the patients in Wuhan had some link to a large seafood and live animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later, a growing number of patients reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.
The headline of an article shared on Facebook claimed, without verifiable evidence: “Coronavirus Hoax: Fake Virus Pandemic Fabricated to Cover-Up Global Outbreak of 5G Syndrome.”
World experts say the virus originated in an animal — perhaps in a bat that transmitted the virus to another animal, and then to humans.
We rate the claim False.
Wired, “Worried About 5G’s Health Effects? Don’t Be,” Dec. 18, 2019
Johns Hopkins Medicine, “What Is Coronavirus?” accessed March 8, 2020
World Health Organization, “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 48,” March 8, 2020
World Health Organization, “Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” Feb. 16-24, 2020
Scientific American, “We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe,” Oct. 17, 2019
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Spectrum, “Will 5G Be Bad for Our Health?” Nov. 12, 2019
WBUR, “Scientists Try To Pinpoint Animal Origins Of COVID-19,” Feb. 13, 2020
Current Biology, “Probable Pangolin Origin of 2019-nCoV Associated with Outbreak of COVID-19,” Feb. 28, 2020
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary,” March 7, 2020