British artist J M W Turner's self-portrait is part of the £20 banknote's new design.

There are no 5G, COVID-19 ‘secrets’ in new £20 banknote

AAP FactCheck May 21, 2020

The Statement

A video claiming a link between Britain’s new £20 banknote, 5G telecommunications and the COVID-19 pandemic is being shared on Facebook.

The May 8 post features a video of a man holding the note in which he promises “to show you how these people are evil”.

Pointing to a transparent window on the banknote, the narrator says, “New £20 note, yeah… that is a 5G tower. Can you see the rings going around the 5G tower? That is the radiation that it will give off.”

He then points to a purple circular symbol and says “lo and behold, above it, is the sign for coronavirus. Can you see it? Right in front of everybody’s face.” To emphasise the point, the post’s message reads, “Secrets hidden in plain sight”.

The post by a New Zealand Facebook user has been viewed more than 20,000 times and attracted more than 130 shares.

A Facebook post from May 8, 2020
 A Facebook post claims a link between Britain’s £20 banknote, 5G and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Analysis

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to produce a wellspring of conspiracy theories about its origins, effects and supposed relation to other global issues including 5G telecommunications.

The Facebook post focuses on Britain’s new banknotes and the purported “secrets” of the redesigned £20 note which entered circulation in February 2020. The note features an image of celebrated British painter J.M.W. Turner and includes a number of references connected to Turner and his art.

The video’s claim of a “5G tower” and its “radiation” are in fact a “large see-through window with a blue and gold foil on the front depicting Margate lighthouse and Turner Contemporary (gallery)“, according to the Bank of England.

In a press release, Turner Contemporary gallery director Victoria Pomery says the painter was a “regular visitor to Margate in his lifetime.” He also produced a number of paintings of the town in southeast England, often including the lighthouse.

The video’s second claim is the banknote features the “sign for coronavirus”, a purple circular symbol featuring the letter ‘T’. According to the Bank of England, the symbol represents the staircase at London’s Tate Britain art gallery by architectural firm Caruso St John.

What the video claims are a “5G tower” and “coronavirus symbol” are in fact some of the £20 note’s security measures, introduced to protect against counterfeiting, the Bank of England says.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claims in the Facebook post to be false. The purported “5G tower” and its “radiation” on the £20 banknote are in fact the Margate Lighthouse and Turner Contemporary art gallery, depicted in the note’s clear window with a blue and gold foil overlay. The “sign for coronavirus”, a purple circular symbol, represents the staircase at London’s Tate Britain gallery, the Bank of England says. Both are security features to protect against counterfeiting.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles.

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