HAMNET Report 29th March 2020

From the ARRL news and Dr Gordon Gibby, comes intriguing news that Amateur radio volunteers from around the world have volunteered to assist University of Florida Professor Sam Lampotang and his engineering team in their quest to rapidly develop an open-source, low-cost patient ventilator that can be built anywhere from such commonly available components as PVC pipe and lawn-sprinkler valves. The amateur radio volunteers are developing Arduino-based control software that will set the respiratory rate and other key parameters in treating critically ill coronavirus victims.

Multiple volunteers responding to a call for help from Gordon Gibby, MD, KX4Z, included noted software developer Jack Purdum, W8TEE, and  uBITX transceiver (micro-BITX) maker Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE. University of Florida physicians are working to address the critical legal aspects as the design moves closer to fruition.

The ventilator’s valves would precisely time compressed oxygen flow into patient breathing circuits under Arduino control, allowing exhausted patients with “stiff” lungs impacted by viral pneumonia to survive until their body can clear the infection. The software design team is also adding simple features such as an LCD display, encoders to choose parameters, and watchdog safety features.

 Thanks to Gordon Gibby, KX4Z for this report.

ARRL News further reports that The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) has reported on how it’s addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, given the various restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus. IARU said the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Headquarters in Geneva remains off limits to visitors until April 17 at the earliest. ITU has cancelled some meetings, postponed others, and converted others into online gatherings. IARU representatives are adjusting plans accordingly and following a similar pattern.

While Dayton Hamvention has cancelled its 2020 show, Europe’s largest amateur radio gathering, HAM RADIO in Friedrichshafen, Germany, is still on schedule for June 26 - 28.

IARU Region 2 Emergency Communications and Satellite Communications workshops set for May 30 – 31, in Trinidad and Tobago, will now be held online. IARU reports that interest and registrations have surged since this announcement. These workshops will be held in English, but preparations are under way for workshops in Spanish to be held later.

IARU Region 3 has cancelled its first Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) Camp that had been planned for early October in Rayong, Thailand.

World Amateur Radio Day on April 18 this year celebrates the 95th anniversary of the IARU’s founding. IARU has allowed that amateur radio “is the best way to practice social distancing.”

IARU Region 1 (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) has asked member-societies to “reconsider their position” on Field Day events over the next few months.

“Field Days bring radio amateurs together and, therefore, represent an environment where social distancing is difficult to achieve,” IARU Region 1 President Don Beattie, G3BJ, said. “We must recognize that many radio amateurs are in the older, higher-risk age groups.” IARU will not sponsor the Region 1 HF CW Field Day in June but said national societies have to make their own decisions as to whether their Field Day events will go forward.

Beattie said single-operator contests “remain a great way for those forced to stay at home to enjoy the magic of amateur radio.”

Thanks to the ARRL for these two inserts.

In the face of 1170 cases of COVID-19 reported by South Africa on Friday evening, and the news that only one of the two deaths referred to on Friday was positive for SARS CoV 2, (the younger lady that died, and her family all tested negative at the time of her death), we can draw a little hope from the fact that there are significantly more recoveries than deaths.

We know that the people who are most vulnerable to the virus are the elderly and the immune-compromised. What we didn’t take into account is that more men are dying than women.

Here’s what CNN had to say about the gender disparity:

In countries such as Italy, men represent nearly 60% of people who tested positive for the virus and more than 70% of those who have died, according to the country’s National Health Institute (ISS).

Even in countries like South Korea, where the proportion of women who have tested positive for the virus is higher than that of men, about 54% of the reported deaths are among men.

CNN teamed up with Global Health 50/50, a research institute examining gender inequality in global health, to unpack data from countries with high rates of confirmed coronavirus cases.

While it isn’t clear whether men are more likely to contract the virus, they are more likely to die from it, according to the data.

Across the countries for which we do have data – spanning nearly a quarter of the world’s population – we found that men were 50% more likely than women to die after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

While necessarily partial and incomplete, the results highlight what public health experts have been warning for some time, theorizing that it is not only biology but also gendered behaviours — the different ways in which men and women conduct their lives — which may play a significant role in the different mortality rate for respiratory diseases.

Men, and especially single men, are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles. In America, for example, nearly five times more men than women smoke, and men drink almost five times as much alcohol than women.

Smokers tend to be the hardest hit, so it might be time to cut back on that habit.

It’s also not too late to start eating more veggies, and incorporating some essential vitamins and nutrients into your diet.

This is sage advice indeed, from 2oceansVIBE News.

And, as of the beginning of the weekend, we and half the world’s population (that’s three and a half billion people) are locked down wherever possible, trying to reduce the dramatic increase in numbers of cases in our countries, and “flatten the curve” so that our healthcare facilities will be able to cope with the serious cases.

America has surpassed both China and Italy, as the most infected country, but Italy’s death toll is close to 10000 as I write this. Desperate news of severe patients with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome not being able to be weaned off the respirators come from both Italy and Spain, and the sad realization is that the ONLY thing that will curb the numbers infected right now is isolation.


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

HAMNET Report 22nd March 2020


As expected, the country and the world has clamped down very hard on any activities which might increase our individual chances of becoming infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The President’s speech last Sunday stopped all groups of people from congregating, recommended self-isolation at all reasonable opportunities, and spelled out the huge risks for large death tolls if the epidemic takes off in this country.

I expected the Two Oceans Marathon to be cancelled, and this was announced on Tuesday this week. All spectator sports have been cancelled, and we wait with interest to see when the Comrades Marathon is called off.

Worldwide, the same is true, much to the dismay of the sports-watchers of the world, who now have nothing to do in their times of isolation or quarantine! However, not catching this virus, and then giving it to your nearest and dearest who are more sickly than you, is far more important than sporting fixtures.

Our IARU Region One Emergency Communications Coordinator, Greg Mossop, G0DUB, sent out a message on Thursday saying:

“The Covid-19 pandemic is not expected to lead to any immediate communications breakdowns. Oliver DL7TNY has reinforced this in an article on the www.darc.de web page where he says ‘The current pandemic is a medical emergency and not a technical emergency’. However, I have seen on Facebook that at least one group of RNRE in Italy seems to be active during the current pandemic emergency and there appeared to be an Austrian net on Covid-19 held on Wednesday on the German language emergency frequency of 3.643MHz on the 18th March.

“Can you please report here if your country is using, or is thinking of using, Amateur Radio as part of its response to the pandemic? Questions are being asked as people either try to find a positive impact from amateur radio for publicity or from other amateurs who are not involved in emergency communications but who want to help.”

He also noted that, at the time of writing, Friedrichshafen Hamfest had not been cancelled. He didn’t know when that situation will change.

In response, Carlos Nora, CT1END, of Portugal, said that “there was no request for intervention at the national level by the Civil Protection authority. The current pandemic is a medical emergency and not a technical emergency, but we are ready to communicate and help if necessary.”

Jan Rozemma, PA0NON, of the Netherlands, said that Dares Emcomm is on standby. Contact is via radio (voice), Winlink and JS8Call. Several stations are prepared to act as a HF RMS station. At the moment there is no request for intervention by the Dutch authorities.

Alberto Barbera IK1YLO, of Italy, says there has been no amateur radio activation yet, but their emergency structure is ready to help if called upon. Our thoughts are particularly with Italy, as they experience the worst spread of the disease and the highest death rate in the world.

Jose Mendez EA9E, of Spain, says “we have recommended to the group of radio amateurs that they monitor COA channels and remain in QRV, in case of a situation of lack of communications (such as internet or mobile phone failure due to overload), as the entire population “locked up at home” increases the consumption of data, and the telephone operators perhaps report a cut in certain areas of SPAIN. This is the reason for the recommendation to monitor.

“We will keep you informed if radio amateur resources will be activated, and we hope that the period of confinement is as short as possible.”

Henrik LA6ETA, of Norway, says that “all kindergarten, all schools and universities are closed, and almost all private and public offices are closed for visitors. Visiting dentists, chiropractors, hairdressers and so on is prohibited, and hotels and everything else is shut down.

“In the past 24 hours, different local and governmental offices have been preparing for several concurrent events in addition to “Corona”, and they’ve been in contact with us, asking what Norwegian radio amateurs can contribute.

“As of today, all Norwegian EMCOMM groups must report weekly (at least). We hope for the best and prepare for the worst!”

Jef, F5FS, reports that “France, like most countries, is in total lockdown.

“The 1,500 certified members are mobilized on our emergency support networks. We are currently noting some difficulties in the internet in certain regions.

“The FNRASEC has VHF / UHF transponder relays in analogue mode which allow for communications between the area headquarters (regional prefectures) and the crisis room at the Ministry of the Interior. A second HF network provides back up.

“We are connected to our overseas territories by the Winlink server (RMS) installed in the southwest of France, callsign F5ZFX, mode Pactor, central frequency 3 608, 7051 and 14 107 kHz. All these operations are carried out by the authority, and separate from the exercises carried out by our volunteers.”

Sotirios Vanikiotis, SV1HER, from Greece, also reports that there have been no requests for radio amateurs to help with anything in his country.

Grant Southey ZS1GS, National Director of HAMNET, says “To date, I have not had any requests for support for COVID19 from any agencies. If you have direct contact with anyone in an agency requiring assistance, please let me know.

“I do not believe that we will get too involved unless the communications goes awry and load shedding interferes, but I do think we need to prepare for anything that can happen so inputs into a formal response plan are gladly accepted. Please send me any suggestions.

“I would suggest that your member’s meetings be cancelled until further notice and that a “net” be held for the evening instead to help prepare if required for regional communications.”

In the light of this, Michael ZS1MJT, our Regional Director for HAMNET in the Western Cape, has cancelled all HAMNET member’s meetings for the foreseeable  future, and reminded us of the 3 Emergency Comms Centre of Activity Frequencies, namely 3760 kHz LSB, 5400 kHz USB, and 7110 kHz LSB.

Let me finish by reminding you that the reason why you are self-isolating, or thinking twice before you mix with people unnecessarily, is that you do not wish to infect those with less resistance than you, if you have any infection, including COVID-19, and be responsible for their collapse, or even death. Social responsibility is the name of the game, and we are but the players.

We need extra-ordinary measures, in extra-ordinary times!

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

HAMNET Report 15th March 2020

From Dave Higgs ZS2DH, of HAMNET  Eastern Cape,   comes another report on their activities recently. The Addo Extreme Trail Run is a 100 mile event through the remote areas of the Addo Elephant Park. The run takes competitors on a gruelling route with a number of steep climbs and descents, but with some breath taking views to make up for the added effort.

The race started at 14h00 on Friday 6th of March and ran through until Sunday morning. On Saturday there was also a 73Km event and a 44Km event which overlapped with the 160Km event at various checkpoints.

The area that needed to be covered was divided into two radio networks. The western (Kabouga) side of the park was covered by a commercial repeater used by the park’s Honorary Rangers. This network was linked to the VOC and to checkpoint MIKE (Medic’s base) via a manned repeater. Two other cross-band repeaters were used all linking up to the permanent ham repeater known as Newlands. This is a UHF repeater and covers the high ground very well and in fact reaches the Cockscomb UHF repeater some distance away. The challenges were getting into valleys and hence the need for the cross-band repeaters.

A VSAT trailer was used at checkpoint MIKE (stationed at the Kabouga cottage) to provide internet services via local WiFi. This provided much needed WhatsApp contact with the VOC as well as providing PTT voice services for the medic crews at the checkpoint.

Saturday evening brought the most amazing lightning display but very little rain, unfortunately.

It was once again a privilege to be in the park and to work with a number of groups including the Honorary Rangers, the Medics, Mountain Rescue, and the Organizers.

While Tony ZR2TX, Deputy Director EC and Beavan ZS2RL operated the VOC in an air-conditioned room, a number of radio hams had a rather warm day or two. At one point the race was paused for 3 hours due to temperature! The temperature at my checkpoint was low 40’s but the entrance to the Valley of Tears was measured at a staggering 55C!

There were no major incidents, although there was an unusually high drop-out rate among the competitors, but this can be expected with temperatures like that.

HAMNET EC would like to thank a number of the members of PEARS who assisted in the operation, in particular Chris ZS2AAW who drew up the comms plan and Beavan ZS2RL who assisted in the VOC.

Thank you for the always interesting reports, Dave!

HAMNET’s reason to exist is our ability to react to, and assist at, disasters of a natural or manmade sort. But right now we are fairly powerless to assist with the biggest disaster we have faced since the 2nd World War, namely the Coronavirus Pandemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has done now what it should have done about 3 weeks ago – recognise this as a Pandemic. A Pandemic has several socio-political spin-offs, and is defined as a severe disease which can spread between people directly, and which is present on at least 2 Continents. Well, the first part is true, and the only Continent not affected is Antartica. So this is a Pandemic.

I would be failing in my duty if I didn’t paint this picture as clearly as I can. I do not want to be an alarmist, but you must understand that nobody has immunity to this disease. Therefore, technically, everyone will get it. 80% will have a mild disease and maybe not even realise that they have it. However they will be infectious for at least 2 weeks, and can affect their aged, sick, compromised family and friends. That means that YOU may get better, but your Mother or Father may die because you gave it to them. So for most of us, the effect of the disease on ourselves will be minimal, but we may be, like the party of skiers who came back from Italy, the start of a localised cluster of sick people who die, because we gave it to them. So don’t think so much of yourself, but worry about your sickly family or friends and do the right thing.

If you have a sickness associated with a fever of about 38 degrees, a sore chest and dry cough, and feel short of breath, you almost certainly have coronavirus, and must STAY AT HOME. We’re at the stage in this land almost, where it is too late to waste time testing whether you have COVID-19, but rather to presume you do have it, and isolate you. You have an 90 to 98% chance that you will get better, but what about your Brother with TB, or Sister with asthma, or Grandfather with diabetes. They will likely not get better.

The second problem is that we have a limit to the amount of specialist care and hospital space, and if the whole country suddenly gets sick, there will not be enough hospital and ICU beds to look after you. The struggling medical system in Italy has had the awful task of deciding which people to allow to die, because there are not enough ventilators for all the people with respiratory distress and stiff lungs. If you pitch up at a specialist hospital with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and can’t breathe, and all the ventilator beds are occupied (which will very quickly happen), it is likely that you will not survive.

The ONLY way we can prevent this kind of tragedy from happening, is by trying to SLOW DOWN, or CONTAIN the spread of infection. If you stay at home when you are sick and don’t infect the 2 to 3 people usually infected by every sick person, the epidemic in our land will grow slowly enough for our medical facilities to keep up.

So please don’t travel anywhere, don’t kiss or hug anyone you don’t wish to catch a sickness from you, wash your hands countless times a day, try not to touch your face at all, and keep surfaces you touch clean with bleach type cleansers. Coronavirus can last 2 days on metal and plastic surfaces, and 12 hours on cardboard surfaces. Masks won’t help you much in preventing spread, but hand-washing and isolation will. Hand sanitisers containing greater than 60% alcohol will kill the virus. Think twice before you go anywhere at all.

Thank you for listening to me.

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

HAMNET Report 8th March 2020

National Director Grant Southey ZS1GS has sent me a summary of last weekend’s HAMNET gathering held in Division Six for all HAMNET Directors. Attending, were Michael ZS1MJT, Andrew ZS2G, Dave ZS2DH, Roy ZS3RW, Riaan ZS4PR, Keith ZS5WFD, Leon ZS6LMG, Brian ZS6YZ, Linda ZS6LML, Anette ZR6D, together with Grant Southey ZS1GS.

The first session was attended by the SARL President, Nico van Rensburg ZS6QL and Louw Erasmus ZS6LME. The first hour of the meeting was an introductory session by the SARL council, in which they announced that Grant Southey would officially become National Director. During the session issues common to the SARL and HAMNET were discussed. The council is extremely appreciative of the role that HAMNET plays within the SARL, and encouraged members present to think creatively regarding the future of HAMNET. The session was a good opportunity to realign the goals of HAMNET with those of the League.

The second session was a discussion by the head of the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC), Ms Santjie White. The ARCC is responsible for the search and rescue of missing aircraft in a vast area in and around South Africa, as far south as the South Pole, and starting at the Greenwich Meridian in the west to a boundary just east of Madagascar. HAMNET and ARCC have a memorandum of understanding to assist with communications in the search for lost aircraft and passengers.

The rest of the weekend was dedicated to determining requirements to take HAMNET forward. The items discussed included:

  • HAMNET Identity – we are aiming to create a single form of identity for all the regions so that there is one HAMNET
  • Uniforms – based on the point above, we are looking for one uniform to be used by all regions so that other national organizations can easily identify HAMNET members
  • A Members Portal – this was a useful function on the website previously, but is now non-functional and we will investigate a path forward to get this up and running
  • Membership Cards – these are required to have an expiry date, but many new members do not yet have one. The printer needs to be resurrected.
  • Training – a uniform approach is once again required, with various levels of competence as well as different areas of expertise for all members. It is not envisaged that all members will be required to be competent in all fields.
  • Events & Exercises. Every member is happy when practicing his hobby and everyone in attendance requested more exercises. Instead of placing the burden on one region, it was decided to rotate the responsibility. The 2020 exercise will be arranged by Divisions 3 & 4. Being regions with small membership, they will share the responsibility again in the future.
  • The Way Forward – a strategy with key areas of focus was devised. These areas are:

Partnerships: We need to create partnerships with relevant agencies

Uniformity:  In the way we operate and appear

Respect:  By others such as fellow hams and in disaster circles

Strength:  By recruiting more members and improving competencies

Evaluation, Introspection and Pro-activity: Becoming more relevant to our goals.

Thank you, Grant, for this fine summary. The future of the HAMNET Group looks good if these goals can be realized.

Now here’s an endorsement of the recognition that digital communications hold a special place in emergency situations. Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (INDOTEL) and the Emergency Operations Center (COE) signed an agreement on February the 11th, that formalizes the use of Amateur Radio bands and processes to be used in case of a disaster.

The signing took place at the Emergency Operations Centre by General Juan Manuel Mendez of COE and Mr. Nelson Guillen, President of Indotel.  After the document signing, they highlighted the important work of radio amateurs and the support they provide to the community during and after any disaster event.

The document commits radio amateurs to use the WINLINK system as a means of transferring information to and from the Dominican Republic, and providing local communications support for disaster response for Civil Defence, the COE, and the Dominican Red Cross and other aid agencies.

With 9 countries in Africa, including South Africa, definitely harbouring COVID-19 cases, the risk of a South African epidemic advances inexorably closer. The only way to make it possible for our very stretched ICU facilities to be able to deal with all those who will need ventilators, is to DELAY the speed of transmission throughout the country. The magic word is CONTAINMENT. If one case in a suburb can be contained until the patient has got better, without infecting anybody else, that locus of infection will die out. Any irrational desire to travel between areas, local or international, should be discouraged as much as possible. Travellers to and from Europe are playing with fire, and of course, between us and the Far East are asking for trouble. I personally think airlines should be banned from carrying passengers at all. That is how the new cases in America, Africa, and South America arose – all via travellers from Italy! Does one need any more evidence than this?

The ARRL News says that amateur radio events have been cancelled or postponed as a result of coronavirus fears.

The Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) has requested that all events scheduled in the next two weeks be cancelled or postponed. Affected events include the West Nippon Ham Fair on March 8, the Chugoku Regional Amateur Radio Direction Finding Competition on March 15, and the Kagawa Ham Festival on March 22.

Members of the Nara DX Association Japan have postponed the planned V6J IOTA DXpedition to Murilo Island in the Hall Islands at least until next year or later. “We hope the propagation will be better then,” the group said. “We hope spreading of coronaviruses will be stopped right away.”

In England, the Wythall Radio Club decided this week to cancel its March 15th  hamfest. “As a responsible club, we have taken this step to minimize any risks to the expected 400+ visitors and traders from the COVID-19 virus, due to the uncertainties regarding the spread of the virus,” the club said.

In late February, Alex Gromme, 5B4ALX, postponed his March 18 – April 2 T30ET DXpedition to Tarawa (West Kiribati) because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Kiribati Ministry of Health told Gromme that he would need to be quarantined for 14 days in Honiara, Solomon Islands, before getting medical approval to continue on to Kiribati. He’s now looking at October 2020, assuming the COVID-19 situation is resolved by then.

Travel restrictions imposed on individuals entering American Samoa as a result of the coronavirus outbreak caused Swains Island W8S DXpedition organizers to postpone that DXpedition until later in the year. The team members were unable to comply with a 14-day mandatory quarantine in Hawaii, and announced tentative dates of 23rd September to 6th October. Thanks to JARL, Southgate Amateur Radio News, and OPDX.

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

HAMNET Report 1st March 2020

By the time you hear or read this report, the HAMNET National Meeting in Division Six will have come and gone. At least one of the Directors or Deputy Directors of each HAMNET division will have attended a pow-wow with Grant Southey ZS1GS, National Director of HAMNET that started on Saturday morning, and finishes at about lunchtime today.

On the agenda are discussions about HAMNET Identity kit, Uniforms, a Member’s Portal, membership cards, the matter of training, and ideas for events and exercises.

Each region will have delivered a 10 minute feedback report, and a description of the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) will have been given.

On Sunday morning, a discussion of the way forward will be held, before the delegates find their way back to their regions, full of new and enthusiastic ideas. We hope to have a report back from our Regional director, Michael ZS1MJT, at this coming Wednesday evening’s HAMNET Western Cape meeting.

From Chris Warren, a radio amateur who publishes a blog called Off Grid Ham comes interesting news of a new technology to be used in generating electricity from the Sun. He writes:

Off Grid Ham first discussed perovskite solar cells in February 2017. This still-emerging technology uses perovskite-structured crystals to pull energy from different colours of light. Silicon panels by comparison make electricity from a narrow band of light. The process for making perovskite solar is also cheaper and more environmentally friendly than silicon. Lastly, perovskite is over 25% efficient versus 13%-17% for conventional panels.

One of the components of perovskite solar is lead. As most everyone knows, lead is a heavy metal that cannot be released uncontrolled into the environment. A broken or otherwise compromised perovskite solar network is a serious contamination hazard to soil and water. This is (or rather, was) one if the biggest obstacles to making perovskite solar a real product that can be placed on the market.

“Scientists at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. have developed a plastic film that will absorb and sequester the lead in the event that the panel is compromised.

“When we’ll be able to buy perovskite solar is still not determined, but with this development that day may come a lot sooner. The benefits of perovskite cannot be oversold. When this product hits the market, it’s going to be a game changer.”

Thank you, Chris for this excerpt from your blog.

In case you fellows out there think you’re too old to learn new stuff, here’s an item from the ARRL Letter for February the 27th.

George “Buck” Miner, K6RFE, of Sun City, Arizona, has been an active ham since earning his first license in 1956, upgrading to a General-class license 10 months later. It wasn’t until January the 26th 2020, however, that he upgraded to Amateur Extra — at the age of 94.

Miner began losing his sight at a young age and became totally blind when he was 27. That never slowed him down, however. Over the intervening years, he repaired TVs and sold, repaired, and installed two-way radios. He even managed a 200-acre ranch on the northern California coast, where he fished and dived for abalone.

Miner was a local celebrity, too, producing and hosting a live radio show in Eureka, California — “Chuck Star and his Rambling Guitar” — on which he told stories, sang, and played guitar. To facilitate living alone, he learned to cook for himself and has produced several “Buck’s Miracle Kitchen” YouTube videos that humorously demonstrate how he cooks without sight.

Miner has written several books, including an autobiography, My Darkness under the Sun. He’s also composed hundreds of songs, including “CQ Boogie,” and he continues to play his guitar and sing for fun and profit!

Thanks to Bob Ringwald, K6YBV for this report.

Tom Head, writing in The South African says that concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus have intensified this week, after new cases and fatalities were reported in Europe and Africa. The fatality count is rapidly approaching the 3 000-mark, and as of Friday morning, there is confirmation that the first two South Africans to contract the illness are being treated in Japan.

The pair was working on board a cruise ship in Asia. The vessel harboured passengers who carried the disease, and it spread to crew members and fellow tourists. A further 10 South Africans have been isolated, but tested negative for coronavirus.

On Thursday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the government would be repatriating 132 South African nationals from Wuhan, China. The city is seen as the epicentre of the outbreak, after the first confirmed cases came from there in November. But when they arrive, a few things are going to change.

In a statement issued by the presidency, Ramaphosa’s team confirmed that the returnees will have to spend three more weeks in another isolation facility, to completely limit any chance of coronavirus spreading.

Some people who’ve been in close contact with the victims can carry the illness without suffering from it. Only when their incubation period is over can the 132 return home and resume their normal lives.

With the threat of coronavirus now hitting us very close to home, there is an increased urgency for the government to table a clear and coherent plan for dealing with this outbreak. For the first time, legal frameworks and guidelines will be established to ensure the right protocols are followed.

A lot of what changes when those exposed to coronavirus come home takes place at a government level. Greater protections will have to be put in place for medical and SANDF staff tasked with monitoring the patients. After a few domestic scares last month, more measures will be put in place to keep hospital staff healthy.

We’re likely to receive daily briefings from the Health Department once “the Wuhan Clan” returns to South Africa and receives further treatment. The news coming out of our embassy in China – amongst other communication channels – has been a little sporadic. That will change as interest intensifies in our domestic cases.

A little bit of good news gleaned from the daily statistics posted on the coronavirus dashboard is that, with the death-toll standing at 2867 on Friday evening, 14 times as many people have recovered from the disease as have died from it. As things stand now, it seems 80% of all cases will recover, 14% will need hospitalisation, another 5% will need an ICU or a ventilator, and 1% will die. So be careful with your personal hygiene, heed the advice of the health authorities and you will be alright.

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