HAMNET Report 16th February 2020

As promised, here is a report of HAMNET Western Cape’s involvement in the 99er Cycle Tour, held around Durbanville on Saturday the 8th February.

The race had been made far more complicated for us by a complete change of route decided 5 days before the event due to roadworks on our usual route along the N7. Consequently, the operations plan had to be revised, and rover duties rearranged. The briefing for operators took place at our monthly meeting on Wednesday the 5th.

The JOC opened at the start/finish at 04h30 on the day, and Danie ZS1OSS and yours truly were kept busy dishing out APRS trackers to ambulances, lead vehicles, back marshals, race marshals and our rover operators who didn’t have their own trackers.

The long race set off at 06h00, completing two big circles in a figure of eight, for a distance of 103km. The shorter route riders set off at 07h40, and covered 51km in a slightly smaller version of the second circle traversed in the long race.

Six of our 8 rovers patrolled the long route, while two were diverted to patrol the parts of the short race not included in the long. One operator set up 2 temporary APRS digipeaters at high sites, to ensure the entire route was visible on the screens in the JOC. A problem with the APRS map installed on the computers caused some duplication of beacons on the screen, and involved our re-installing the map and co-ordinates, to start again. After that, the tracking went very smoothly, and all the trackers performed flawlessly.

It was a very hot day, and several calls for medical help were made for riders with dehydration, and collapse, but rescue by the roving ambulances proved effective. There were apparently the usual falls, shoulder injuries, and broken collar-bones, but by far the most calls were for flat tyres, and many riders almost didn’t make the cut-off, about 30 minutes away from the finish, having to replace damaged inner tubes.

In the end, the riders were glad to finish, as midday temperatures reached 34 degrees.

Rovers were Douw ZS1DGK, Mike ZS1TAF, Ian ZS1OSK, Johann ZS1JM, Peter ZS1PDE accompanied by Corrie ZS1CQ, Douglas ZS1DUG, and Grant ZS1GS, while Alister ZS1OK manned the digipeaters.  Shaan ZS1SCW and Stan ZS1HCC acted as co-pilots with the race marshals, and Danie ZS1OSS and Dave ZS1DFR ran the JOC.

I’d like to thank the HAMNET members who assisted, making the race safer for the 3000 riders who braved the course. We will be back next year. Our next two events are partial involvement in the Cape Town Cycle Tour on 8th March, and full involvement in the Two Oceans Marathon on Easter Saturday.

The amateur astronomers amongst you should be keeping an eye on Betelgeuse’s activities in the next week. The red giant in Orion’s right shoulder has dimmed by about 25% over the last 6 months, and the experts are wondering whether it isn’t going to explode as a supernova in the next week – specifically the 21st of February. If it does, it will be very bright indeed, possibly bright enough even to be seen in daylight! So watch that space.

Greg Mossop G0DUB has reported that Jose EA9E has informed us that today, the 16th, sees the first exercise of 2020 by EMCOM SPAIN, called # Emcomnet 2020/1. He informs us on the IARU mailing list that, since it is open to any radio amateur, they will work in “NET-Control” mode by exchanging QTC and establishing links via Winlink as backup. There will also be several EH*NET stations spread throughout Spain, run by EH9NET. The propagation conditions that they have, oblige them to use 40m and 20m to establish communications mainly with the EA8 zone (Canary Islands) and the rest of Spain, and in Winlink they will use the bands of nodes that they have nearby, mainly HB9AK that is received quite well in EA.

Now to further developments in the Coronavirus saga.

Firstly, China has begun using a wider range of diagnostic criteria to diagnose the disease, which has suddenly resulted in a huge jump in the statistics. The number of reported cases has increased by almost 50% this week, the number of reported deaths has continued to climb at the steady rate, (because you can’t make a mistake statistically with a death), but happily the number of patients reported completely cured has increased significantly. These patients were watched closely and surveyed until they were completely free of virus RNA, therefore no longer infectious, and discharged.

Secondly the World Health Organisation has been allowed to send staff into China, to help manage the disease and the statistics, which may then make it appear that case numbers have climbed, but may only be from better reporting.

Thirdly, the ratio of male to female patients statistically has changed from a 50:50 proportion, to a 60% male:40% female proportion. By far the majority of patients are still confined to China where all deaths but 4 have taken place. There has been one death in each of Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines and, yesterday, France. One case has now been reported in Africa, in Egypt, and all of South America is still completely free of any cases.

In that there is no antiviral specifically for the Coronavirus, treatment so far has been supportive. Treatment for symptoms, ensuring the patients are well quarantined from unexposed citizens, standard medical treatment in the hospital ICU’s where ventilation by machine has saved many lives, once the stiffness of the patient’s lungs has cleared, and then further quarantining until doctors are sure the patients are free of virus, are all effective in the majority.

When you have no formal treatment options for a disease, you are inclined to try anything that might work for other viral illnesses, as long as they are unlikely to cause a patient harm, and on the off-chance that they will help. This is usually frowned upon by the medical profession, though it seems cruel, unless trials have been done to prove effectiveness. However, in a move called “compassionate use”, clinicians have tried a variety of antiviral medicines, including anti-retrovirals, without major success.

The coronavirus dashboard’s figures yesterday afternoon showed 67091 cases confirmed, 1527 deaths (steady at 2.27% of total cases), and 8557 patients confirmed completely cured, no longer infectious, and thus discharged. We hold our collective breaths for the day when new cases and the death toll start diminishing.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.