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.