FactCheck Social Media

False claims about COVID-19, 5G and a vaccine that doesn’t exist yet

2020-05-08 17:03:38

The Statement

A widely shared social media post claims that the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused more than 254,000 deaths globally does not exist and that the coronavirus crisis is instead a cover-up to allow the deployment of 5G telecommunications towers.

There are multiple examples of the post on Facebook, some of which have been shared thousands of times.

One version of the post, from a Facebook user based in Nigeria, adds the  caption: “I’m really confused about this so-called COVID-19”. It has been shared more than 80 times, including by Facebook users in Papua New Guinea and the United States, and has been viewed more than 17,000 times.

The post includes a photo of a printed page, held inside a plastic sleeve, that makes several unsupported claims about COVID-19, starting with a claim “coronavirus is fake”.

The text claims COVID-19 “was a huge cover up” to allow the building of 5G telecommunications towers “which are the real cause for the virus deaths”. It claims 5G towers “are releasing extreme amounts of radiation to your body through your phone signal!”

The text also claims 5G technology “will also give the government access to your information and location through an R.F.I.D. chip in the vaccine”.

No references or attributions are given for any of the claims.

Screenshot of Facebook post
 A Facebook post makes false claims attempting to link the COVID-19 pandemic to 5G technology. 

The Analysis

Claims of COVID-19 being a government conspiracy or connected to 5G technology are among thousands of pieces of misinformation on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is the name of the infectious disease caused by a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

The illness spread to almost every country in the world in the first months of 2020 and COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11. As of May 8 there are confirmed cases across 187 countries and territories (including a cruise ship) according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is part of a family of coronaviruses which have caused infectious diseases such as MERS and SARS. All three strains, known as betacoronaviruses, have their origins in bats.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported many of the early patients with the disease in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei Province, were linked to a large seafood and live animal market, which suggested animal-to-person transmission of the disease.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) May 7, 2020 situation report said there were 3,672,238 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, and there have been 254,045 deaths.

As well as the health impacts of the pandemic, the economic cost is set to be in the order of $2 trillion globally, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Considering the global spread of the disease, the numbers of deaths,  economic impact and the multinational mobilisation of resources to fight the pandemic there is no basis for any claim the COVID-19 pandemic is “fake”.

Regarding the post’s claim that COVID-19 was “a cover up” to allow rollout of 5G network towers that are “the real cause” of the deaths occurring worldwide, to date 5G is available in only 33 or 34 countries, according to recent reports.

As stated above, COVID-19 is currently in 187 countries and territories and a cruise ship.

Furthermore, the first country to deploy 5G was South Korea in late 2018 and yet that country’s first COVID-19 case, detected on January 20, 2020, was imported from China.

The post claims 5G network towers and “extreme amounts of radiation” are “the real cause for the virus deaths”. The WHO has addressed 5G-related scares, stating viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) says the current level of 5G radiofrequency electromagnetic energy (RF EME) is well below levels at which harm to people might occur.

ARPANSA, the WHO and the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation (ICNIRP) https://www.arpansa.gov.au/news/5g-new-generation-mobile-phone-network-and-health“>agree that “there is no established scientific evidence to support any adverse health effects from very low RF EME exposures to populations or individuals”.

ARPANSA spokesman Dr Ken Karapidis says the 5G network will “initially use frequencies in the current mobile phone network, then move to higher frequencies where the depth of RF EME penetration into human tissue is short. ARPANSA says no health effects are expected for radio frequency exposures below its limits and it has recommended continued research on higher frequency future technologies.

As to the post’s claim that there is “an R.F.I.D. (radiofrequency ID) chip in the vaccine said to immunise you”, there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.

Health workers unload coffin in Surabaya
 Health workers unload the coffin of a coronavirus victim at a cemetery in Surabaya, Indonesia. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claims of the post to be false. COVID-19 is not “fake” but is a highly infectious viral disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. Claims of a link between COVID-19 and 5G telecommunications ignore expert medical research and advice, and the fact that COVID-19 is present in many nations without 5G networks. The claim that the vaccine for COVID-19 contains an RFID chip is a fabrication as a vaccine does not exist.

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

* 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. https://aap.com.au/