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.