No, 5G technology is not related to Covid-19 outbreak
As the local telecommunications industry gears up to roll out 5G network in the country, the sector regulator—Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)—has noted a sharp spike in public concerns regarding the safety of the new technology.
These concerns have peaked in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, some conspiracy theorists have latched onto the ensuing debate to fuel public fear and antipathy against this nascent technology by associating it with Covid-19 outbreak.
The theorists base their arguments on the fact that Wuhan, the city where the virus was first reported, was the first city in China to deploy 5G network.
What the doomsayers, however, miss to point out is that Wuhan was one of the 16 Chinese cities to debut 5G.
Interestingly, none of the other cities have reported abnormally high incidents of the virus.
And although China launched the world’s largest 5G network in October, 2019, a number of firms in South Korea, UK, Germany and the US launched commercial 5G services, some on a trial basis, in late 2018.
Clearly, the association of 5G technology with Covid-19 is spurious.
More worrying is the claim by the theorists that 5G damages the immune system, leaving affected individuals highly exposed to coronavirus. Kenya now has 208 confirmed Covid-19 cases, yet the country has not deployed 5G network.
Other theories peddled on social media allege that 5G mobile networks are being deployed in high frequency bands of up to 60GHz, thus causing ionisation of the oxygen molecules in the air.
This process allegedly splits the molecules into two atoms, which then deprive the human body of oxygen, causing death.
These accounts are unfounded, as no country has deployed 5G networks in the 60GHz band.
Indeed most 5G networks have been deployed in the 2.6 and 3.5 GHz frequency bands. Kenya is planning to launch 5G trials in these bands too.
Still, other social media accounts attribute Covid-19 to viruses excreted from dying human cells whose alleged cause of death is 5G radiation.
Again these accounts are untrue and misplaced, as the epidemic has hit even countries yet to deploy 5G.
As expected, all these conspiracy theories have triggered public interest and anxiety on the safety of 5G, a technology billed to positively transform all aspects of life, including healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.
I, therefore, urge consumers and members of the public to treat these allegations with disdain.
The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) is vested with the responsibility of exercising oversight on non-ionising radiation in the country under revised legislation issued last year.
KNRA is preparing to enact regulations outlining the allowable non-iodising radiation level thresholds in Kenya. Radiation from 5G and other preceding technologies is non-iodising.
Nonetheless, Kenyans should find comfort in the fact that after seven years of research, the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) released guidelines on limiting exposure to electromagnetic fields, including 5G.
According to ICNIRP, the main effect that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields have on the human body is increased temperature of exposed tissue.
The human body effortlessly handles small increases to body temperature, including those caused by exercising.
As long as the increase in temperature of the exposed tissues is within the set thresholds, there are no risks to human health.
5G radiation overall levels remain low and well below international safety guidelines.
Further, there is no evidence that 5G can damage the immune system, and thus have a deleterious effect on human health.
Indeed, the WHO says no research has linked exposure to wireless technology with negative health effects.
Conspiracy theories on wireless technology are not new. Virtually all previous mobile communications technologies from 1 to 4G have had their fair share of detractors. Experience has, without exception, served to prove the doomsayers wrong.
5G technology, which will deliver super-fast, low latency and high capacity Internet, is touted as a game changer.
As a country, we should not allow detractors to have their way and scare us from adopting this transformative technology. —The writer is acting Director General of the Communications Authority of Kenya