HAMNET Report 19th April 2020

HAMNET REPORT 19TH APRIL 2020

Univadis Medical News has published some statistics regarding patients with COVID-19 that have needed hospitalisation and admission to an Intensive care Unit.

In a study of 1591 consecutive patients in the Lombardy region of Italy, 82% were male, with an average age of 63. 68% had at least one other illness that might have made their situation worse. 99% needed respiratory support, 88% by mechanical ventilation, and the other 11 less invasive procedures. After roughly a month of observation, 58% were still in the ICU, 16% had been discharged, and 26% had died in the ICU. Mortality was higher in older patients, of course.

In that radio amateurs are usually older males, and many with co-morbidities, (which means additional illnesses to worsen our outlook,) we are more likely to make heavy weather of COVID-19 should we catch it. So please, do not place yourselves at unnecessary extra risk. Stay at home and play radio!

And Tech Financials notes that South Africa’s communications watchdog has allocated a special phone number for COVID-19 emergencies.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA) has allocated the phone number “111” for use for COVID-19 emergency services.

“The service code ‘111’ is hereby harmonised and mandated for COVID-19 national emergency services,” Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng, ICASA’s acting chairperson, said in new regulations published today.

Calls to the COVID-19 emergency number will be free.

“The ‘111’ service code is mandated for COVID-19 national emergency services during the National State of Disaster. The service code “111” will cease to be harmonised and mandated within three (3) months after the termination of the National State of Disaster,” said Dr Modimoeng.

In case you missed the announcement, the biggest Hamfest in Europe, HamRadio2020 at Friedrichshafen, has been cancelled. According to the announcement, HAM RADIO acted in accordance with an April 15 decision by federal and state authorities that no major events are to take place until August 31. HAM RADIO 2020 was set for June 26 – 28. The event is Europe’s major ham radio show, attracting some 15,000 visitors from around the world each summer. This year’s show would have been the 45th HAM RADIO.

Greg Mossop G0DUB is nevertheless planning an on-line option for the emergency communications meeting on 27th June from 11h00 to 15h00 UTC. Stay tuned for more information. We may even be able to link in and participate!

The other cancellation announced this week, concerns the Comrades Marathon, which has formally been postponed, no new date being given. HAMNET-KZN, which normally plays a huge role in the communications during the race, will have to wait awhile to hear if it will take place at all this year.

Rick Palm, K1CE, writing in his editorial in the ARES E-Letter of 15th April says that the current COVID-19 crisis is unlike any emergency any of us have been through, with extended periods of time at home – and in the shack for him and many other hams. He has spent the time on small projects that he’s always meant to do; for example, he secured his 12-volt batteries (in their battery case boxes) to the bottom metal shelf of his operating platform, using clips and the box straps. He’s checked into the local FM repeater and simplex nets, and a local/regional 6-meter SSB net for wellness checks, information, social connection, and morale. He’s logged many new HF contacts and garnered QSLs in the ARRL Logbook of the World. All of these activities have served him well in maintaining some semblance of sanity these days.

Looking for something to do? University of Mississippi Professor of Emergency Management Mike Corey, KI1U, offered this great suggestion: “Try to work as many of the STAYHOME suffixed call signs as possible.” [Some countries are allowing radio amateurs to use special “STAYHOME” call sign suffixes. In Canada, for example, Michael Shamash, VE2MXU, is using VC2STAYHOM “to raise awareness for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.”]  Corey said “Many of these stations are active on FT4/FT8, so it’s a good time to try out digital modes and test station set-ups.”

I mentioned Cyclone Harold in last week’s bulletin as it pummelled Vanuata, Fiji, and other islands. Well, the WMO has reported on it this week.

Latest World Meteorological Organisation news is that low-lying islands in the South-west Pacific Ocean are counting the human and economic toll of Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold, which destroyed key infrastructure and highlighted the challenges of disaster and public health management in the COVID-19 era. At its peak, Harold was the equivalent of a Category 5 level hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “deeply saddened” by reports of loss of life and property in Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Tonga.

“The Secretary-General commends the governments and first responders in the affected countries for their pre-emptive work to make people safe ahead of the storm and to meet their immediate needs afterwards. The United Nations stands ready to support these efforts,” he said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General expresses his deep solidarity with the people of the Pacific as they face the impact of this cyclone, along with other climate-related challenges, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, which adds a worrying new dimension to existing vulnerabilities,” he said.

The tropical cyclone underlined the imperative of activities of all WMO projects that help to strengthen early warning systems and increase resilience of vulnerable members impacted by severe weather and climate change associated hazards, such as coastal and inland flooding, including those from storm surges, river floods, and rising sea levels.

The coordination of the forecasts and early warnings for tropical cyclones in the region is provided by the WMO Tropical Cyclone Committee for the South Pacific and South-East Indian Ocean, the Regional Meteorological Specialized Centre in Nadi, Fiji, and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

The WMO-supported Climate Risk and Early Warning System (CREWS) is helping to strengthen early warning systems and increase resilience in Pacific Islands.

Thanks to the WMO for this report.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR, hoping that you are all staying at home, and being careful, and reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 12th April 2020

As expected, our lockdown has been extended by another 2 weeks. That might still not be long enough, but does help. This is bad and good news. Bad because our various forms of cabin fever get worse, but good, because we restrict the spread of the disease, AND because we radio amateurs can play radio for even longer! Please grasp the opportunity with both hands.

What can I report on this week that isn’t directly COVID-19 related?

The ARRL Letter reports that, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the March 20 – 21 HamSCI Workshop went on as scheduled, moving to a free, all-digital webinar workshop. The theme of the 2020 workshop was “The Auroral Connection — How does the aurora affect amateur radio, and what can we learn about the aurora from radio techniques?”

Organizer and University of Scranton Professor Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, told ARRL that he was quite happy with the outcome, after the in-person workshop had to be called off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In some ways, it was good for us,” Frissell said. “We actually got many more participants than had we just held it in person.” Expectations for the live event were for about 100 participants. Online, Zoom — the webinar platform used for the workshop — reported 290 unique logins from 24 countries. After cancellation of the in-person workshop, Frissell had to scramble to make the virtual event a reality.

“I had the webinar running in practice mode for about 2 or 3 days before the workshop, and I let presenters log in whenever they wanted to test things out,” Frissell said.

“Both aurora and ham radio citizen scientists work closely with the Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere, but while aurora folks tend to think about how what we see reveals aspects of the ionosphere, ham radio operators tend to think about what radio waves can tell us about the ionosphere.”

The workshop served as a team meeting for the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station project that’s funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to Frissell as its principal investigator. The project seeks to harness the power of a network of radio amateurs better to understand and measure the effects of weather in the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere.

KSNB TV News reports that, with a national shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, people are doing what they can to fulfil the orders. When they heard of the need, some members of the Amateur Radio Association of Nebraska looked at each other and found a way they could help. Now with people outside of the group helping, too, they are using 3D printers to create face shields.

Their 3D printers have been running all day for over a week now. Volunteers across the Tri-Cities are quickly making face shields for hospitals and clinics who need to serve the public. The shield is a simple frame design with a plastic cover. The cover can be quickly changed out or reused.

“Material-wise we have pennies on the dollar for these things so we want to make sure our healthcare workers and everybody involved in the field are safe and so we’re doing what we can to help,” Amateur Radio Assoc. President Allen Harpham WD0DXD said.

The frames are printed, but the shield part is actually recycled overhead projector sheets from schools. They have gotten thousands of sheets donated to them from schools in central Nebraska who have no other use for them anymore.

Business Insider South Africa says South African cell-phone operators can now get access to radio frequency spectrum on an emergency basis, to help with Covid-19 disaster communications, under new rules published by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on Monday.

That includes frequency allocations that operators have been begging and pleading for, in order to roll out 5G services, as well as bands that will allow them to provide better data service.

But there’s a catch: the operators only get the spectrum until the end of November. On 30 November, say the Icasa regulations, the temporary licences to be granted will automatically become invalid.

That is if the licences are not revoked earlier than that. The spectrum allocation is also due to be revoked within three months after the end of South Africa’s national state of disaster around the coronavirus, so that if the state of disaster were to be cancelled at the end of May, cellphone operators would have to hand back the spectrum at the end of August.

The temporary allocation of the high-demand spectrum is to help operators “deal with the anticipated rise in demand for network capacity or data services” during the disaster, Icasa said.

There will be no fees for access, and operators could have the use of the spectrum before the end of April. Applications were due by Thursday, after which the regulator has given itself four days to process those applications.

The ARRL letter further reports that Radio amateurs continue to play key roles in developing the electronic control system for an open-source/architecture, modular, low-cost human patient ventilator. The device itself was designed by researcher Sem Lampotang and his team at University of Florida Health — the school’s academic health centre — using such commonly available components as PVC pipe and lawn-sprinkler valves. The idea is to create a bare-bones ventilator that could serve in the event of a ventilator shortage.

“The way I look at it is, if you’re going to run out of ventilators, then we’re not even trying to reproduce the sophisticated ventilators out there,” Lampotang said. “If we run out, you have to decide who gets one and who doesn’t. How do you decide that? The power of our approach is that every well-intentioned volunteer who has access to Home Depot, Ace, Lowe’s, or their equivalent world-wide, can build one.”

Dr. Gordon Gibby, KX4Z — a retired associate professor of anaesthesiology at the University of Florida and an electrical engineer — is among those involved in the project, developing control-system prototypes. He reports that a trial printed circuit board is being created, populated, and tested prior to large-scale fabrication. “This should lead to a documented open-source design that can be replicated or improved

upon by any interested manufacturer,” Gibby said, noting that the board could be built anywhere in the world, based on the Arduino Nano microcontroller.

“A huge amount of work has gone on in the design of the circuit boards,” Gibby told ARRL. “We have at least two, maybe three designs, ready for fabrication.” Current design specifications and a video of prototypes have been posted online. The Arduino-based control software will set the respiratory rate and other key parameters in treating critically ill coronavirus victims. Other radio amateurs involved in the control system aspect of the project include Jack Purdum, W8TEE, and uBITX transceiver maker Ashhar Farhan, VU2ESE.

Using a Groups.io forum, up to 140 volunteers have been studying or working to push the project to completion. Software is being created by multiple volunteers, with amateur radio operators involved in that phase as well.

The ventilator’s valves will precisely time the flow of compressed oxygen into a patient with lungs weakened by viral pneumonia in order to extend life and allow time for the body to clear the infection.

If you weren’t depressed enough already, spare a thought for Vanuata and Fiji, who have just suffered Tropical Cyclone Harold, on top of our worldwide agony, and then the entire Pacific rim of fire, which is just quietly going about its business of experiencing earthquakes on a more or less daily basis! Enough is enough, I tell you!

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

HAMNET Report 5th April 2020

I guess there is really no other disaster or event news to talk about this week except the confounded SARS CoV-2 virus. Our lives, our society, our sport, our economy and our work have all been superseded by the effects of a piece of protein one millionth of a millimeter in diameter! EXCEPT, of course, for Amateur Radio!

Amateur Radio works when all other lines of communication fail, and even works when people are too scared to talk to each other, for fear of contracting the virus! Viruses are not carried by electromagnetic waves, and the only person who is going to breathe in any germs of any sort in your breath when you speak into a microphone, is yourself. And, in the face of the majority of us being forced to remain at home for about 95% of each day, we, the radio amateurs of the world have fallen with our collective bums in the butter.

Now is the time not only to be caring for our loved ones, providing the essential foods and medicines we all might need, but also to be testing those airwaves we have been so lazy to use. So far, not many authorities have needed our services to aid in the testing of the nations, or to identify and trace contacts, but that is no reason not to switch on the radio. Do you hear anything? Of course not – everybody else thinks the bands are dead! They’re only dead because you are not calling CQ. Put out a call at the appropriate time of day for the band your antenna is most resonant on, and see who answers you. There’s plenty of time to cruise around the airwaves looking for promising frequencies, and old friends calling.

And there is no law which says you may not be on your roof, trimming that antenna or trying another one, to get the best out of the poor propagation. Of course, there is also no reason why you can’t engage in local comms on your 2 metre or 70cm frequencies with your closest ham friend. Asking your Elmer for an opinion as to the quality of your audio, getting used to a new distance from your mike to prevent over-modulation, over-deviation, or popping as you speak, trying SSB or even AM contacts on VHF or UHF if you have a multimode rig, or checking whether you can put your mobile rig in your car into cross-band repeat in an instant, if required by the emergency situation – these are all upgrading possibilities you can experiment with while at home.

Of course, quite a lot of you are working from home, and I certainly go on record now as saying that one good thing, that might come out of this pandemic, might be the realization by bosses that staff can be trusted to work from home. Imagine if there was half the traffic on the roads at so-called “rush-hour”, mornings and evenings. Those at home wouldn’t have wasted petrol and time driving at all, and those at work wouldn’t have wasted as much petrol and time driving to work and back. And if you had an extra hour to yourself each day, because you drove less, or not at all, wouldn’t you be more enthusiastic to turn on the radio, and see who’s there? There might be a mixed blessing in this pandemic business after all!

I’m not saying that a lot of medical work doesn’t need still to be done. The poor hospital staff around the world and in our country is going to be worked off its feet as the epidemic takes hold here. I can assure you, that is still going to happen. How badly it affects us depends on the degree to which we take our President and the Department of Health’s instructions to heart. There is NO OTHER WAY to prevent our statistics from getting as bad as Italy, Spain or America, than to isolate ourselves. Is three weeks going to be enough? I very much doubt it. Three weeks might be half the amount of time we need to stretch the number of people sick at the same time out, for our health facilities to be able to keep up.

In India, about 280 radio amateurs are assisting authorities by reporting on illegal gatherings of groups which would increase the danger of spread of the disease. In other parts of the world, safety messages and requests for medical assistance are being transmitted, but these cases are in the minority.

The principle of lockdown has as a result, a delay in the onset of the disease in many people, but doesn’t entirely stop the serious cases from developing – it merely delays them. The appearance of serious cases and deaths lag behind the start of the lockdown by a couple of weeks, and the successful effects of the lockdown lag behind that, so we are only going to see a slowing in the number of new cases some weeks after the lockdown starts. That is why I do not expect enough improvement in the situation within 3 weeks to be apparent, and, therefore, why I think the lockdown will have to be extended. Whether our poor economy, and our even poorer communities, will survive this disaster remains to be seen. It is cold comfort that the rest of the world is in a similar position. Many, many businesses have gone and will continue to go under, and many countries will feel the effect of this pandemic for decades to come. Who would have thought that 2020 would start out like this, and that a lowly virus, so tiny that you can’t see it under an ordinary microscope, would bring the world to its knees!

However, none of this needs to impact on our ability to communicate, and communicating with other people is what prevents a feeling of isolation and despair. So, if you have no-one at home to speak to, you do have that guy or gal talking to you out of that loudspeaker in front of you, and allowing you to voice your opinion over matters electronic or of an Emcomms nature, and perhaps inspiring you to try that one more thing that will turn your good station into a brilliant station.

So please don’t sit mindlessly flipping through channels on the goggle-box all day. Get radio-active and take advantage of the good opportunity if you can!

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

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.

So people, PLEASE STAY AT HOME!

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

HAMNET Report 22nd March 2020

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.

HAMNET Report 23rd February 2020

Hamnet Eastern Cape, members of the Port Elizabeth Amateur Radio Society, and Hammies from Bisho, were in action on Sunday morning the 16th of February during the Herald Mountain Bike race held in the Zuurberg Mountains around Addo just outside Port Elizabeth.

Lunga ZS2LN and 9 members of the Hammies Club in Bisho drove through on the Saturday to meet up with the rest of the team camping at the Hayterdale farm on the Zuurberg pass.  A pleasant evening with a braai fire, a few cold ones and some great chatter!  A few more joined us early on Sunday morning, in time for a coms check at 05:30.

Use was made of a cross band repeater setup at Camp Figtree – a local highpoint, which provided VHF coverage to the various checkpoints and a UHF link to the VOC in Addo some distance away.

Gert, ZS2GS manned the repeater with Lunga ZS2LN, while Colin ZR2CRS, Jimmy ZS2JIM, Aldrin ZS2AGB and Kevern ZR2BK manned the various checkpoints.  As usual, Toni ZR2TX handled the VOC at the polo fields in Addo.

Dave, ZS2DH and 6 of the Hammies were deployed down a part of the route that had several steep descents and was limited to bike access only.  The Hammies were paired off along the route and reported information such as lead riders, last riders and sweep.  Fortunately no injuries needed to be reported along this stretch of bush.  As access was limited, they had to walk in and all the way out, so they all got a good walk in the process!

According to the SA Weather service, Sunday was the hottest day in Port Elizabeth in the last 55 years – the mercury rising to 40.2 C – just short of the record set in March 1965 of 40.7C.

Today, Sunday the 23rd,   many of the same operators are out doing it again for the road race version of the same event.

Thank you to Dave Higgs ZS2DH, for this comprehensive report.

From The Hindu, comes a report of a recent exercise. At an uninhabited island near the mouth of Chilika lagoon, 10 members of the Amateur Radio Society of Odisha (ARSO), with no access to electricity and communication lines, tested their skills and technology to use radio for enhancing preparedness for natural calamities.

The three-day-long second annual field camp at the remote island ended on Sunday, using amateur radio, with minimal power supply being the theme of the camp.

During the devastating Fani cyclone in 2019, Puri district remained without power and telecommunication for several days.

At that time HAM radio became the only means of communication between the Puri collectorate and State secretariat in Bhubaneswar, said ARSO members.

The HAM operators employed high frequency signals to connect with other operators living far away. Participants were able to connect to around 60 such operators in different parts of India and abroad, including three operators in Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE. The operators contacted in India were located at places like Erode in Kerala, Chandigarh, New Delhi, and Guwahati in Assam.

“Minimal amount of power was used for HAM connectivity and personal use. Only 30-40 watts of electricity from portable small batteries were used for the purpose”, said Gurudatta Panda, a participant at the camp.

ARSO members reached the island on the evening of February 14 and remained cut off from the rest of the world till February 16. To simulate situations during a natural calamity, the group operated without power and conventional modes of communication, and used bamboo poles and domestic electrical wires to construct an antenna tower.

Southgate Amateur Radio News says that a 30-year-old Soviet spy radio has been found by archaeologists in a site cleared for a new lignite mine about 30 km west of Köln in Germany.

Live Science reports that the spy radio was buried inside a large metal box that was hermetically sealed with a rubber ring and metal screws. Although the radio’s batteries had run down after almost 30 years in the ground, the box hissed with inrushing air when it was opened.

The radio has been identified as a model R-394KM transmitter and receiver — code-named “Strizh,” meaning “Swift” — that was manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1987. It was carried by agents into Western Europe shortly after that, and only a few years before the fall between 1989 and 1991 of the “Iron Curtain” of communism that divided Eastern and Western Europe.

The high-frequency or shortwave radio was capable of transmitting and receiving messages as far as 1,200 km — far enough to reach Warsaw in Poland, which was then part of the Soviet bloc.

Now to finish, some more coronavirus research news. It appears that bats in China and Borneo have been the subjects of research ever since the SARS epidemic in 2002 in China. About 5 years ago, research showed that some of these bats were harbouring up to 400 species of coronavirus. Further studies showed that some local humans had been in the caves these bats inhabited, so these people were tested for coronavirus antibodies, and some were found positive for the bat viruses, even though they had not had serious illness.

Moving forward now to the present, comparing the SARS-CoV-2 virus genetic material to that of some of the 400 bat coronaviruses previously identified proved a very strong correlation between the two, suggesting that the original animal-to-human transmission may have been from bats. However, it is possible that there was an intermediate animal host, perhaps kept at the live animal market in Wuhan.

Good news is that reviewing the statistics reveals very few children and infants infected, and no deaths at all among children. Another worry seems to have been reduced by news of 9 pregnant women, who were sick with COVID-19 in the last weeks of their pregnancies, and all of whom needed Caesars for reasons unrelated to COVID-19. In spite of the Moms still being sick at the time of their Caesars, researchers were unable to find any trace of the virus in the 9 children, their amniotic fluid, placentas or cord blood. None of those children got sick! Isn’t that wonderful news?!

Numbers continue to climb. There are about 77000 cases reported now, almost 2500 deaths, but nearly 19000 completely cured and no longer infectious. Let’s hold thumbs for Africa and South Africa. The African continent will not be able to afford to look after patients in their masses if the pandemic arrives here.

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

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.