HAMNET Report 7th June 2020

Severe weather is being experienced around the world. India and Pakistan were struck by Tropical Cyclone NISARGA this week, with wind-speeds up to 120 km/h. Houses were damaged, families were evacuated and a few deaths were reported. Further heavy rain and thunderstorms were forecast for the current weekend.

Tropical storm CHRISTOBAL has made landfall in Eastern Mexico with wind-speeds in the 75 to 100 km/h range. Houses and hospitals were damaged, and about 600 people needed to be evacuated from areas of high risk. Heavy rain and thunderstorms are also expected there this weekend, with spread into neighbouring Guatemala

Tropical Storm AMANDA struck El Salvador last weekend, 150000 people being affected, about 12000 needing evacuation to places of safety, floods and landslides being reported, houses and bridges destroyed, and interruption of water and electricity supplies. Humanitarian assistance is proving difficult in the middle of challenges posed by the COVID pandemic.

Meanwhile, Chile was struck by a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in its North-East area on 3rd June, blocking roads and threatening some 12000 people, and a quake of strength 5.5 struck Southern California on 4th June. No serious damage to structures or infrastructure has been reported.

And Yemen, Somalia, Finland, European Georgia, Italy, Norway and Sweden are all being threatened by heavy rain and flooding.

The Western Cape is also facing extreme weather this coming week, with about 50mm of rain predicted for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We can do with the rain, and wait with eager anticipation to see if the forecast is correct.

And, on the first day of Lockdown Level 3, a climber went up Table Mountain, slipped, and fell to his death. Wilderness Search and Rescue, which includes HAMNET, was mobilized to aid in his retrieval, which eventually took place on Tuesday. HAMNET records its sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that HamSCI (www.hamsci.org) is looking for amateur radio operators in the eastern hemisphere to help collect propagation data during the June 21st solar eclipse. Data collection requires an HF radio connected to a computer.

There will be two data collection exercises: a control day, held on June 14, followed by the event from June 20-22, which encompasses the annular solar eclipse across eastern Africa and Asia on June 21.

If you wish to receive further details of the experiment, they are available at

Interested operators may contact Kristina Collins at kd8oxt@case.edu.

My piece of Coronavirus news for you this week concerns the no-yes-no confusion regarding whether Hydroxychloroquine will make any difference to your becoming infected with, or recovering from, COVID-19.

In March this year, a large summary of many studies which included Hydroxychloroquine in their treatment programmes, with or without other medication in combination, seemed to suggest that this old and much used Malaria drug DID NOT reduce the severity of COVID-19, or even prevent its occurrence. As a result of this news, further trials of the drug to find out how effective it might be, were stopped.

A while later, doubt as to the veracity of this evidence was raised, because some of the data supplied by a company whose job was specifically just to collate information, turned out to be suspect. I don’t understand it fully, but the company in question could not guarantee the quality of its data. As a result, Hydroxychloroquine became a hot subject again, and the World Health Organisation directed that the research into its effects be restarted.

But, in another backflip, leaders of a large study in the United Kingdom that is rigorously testing the malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine and other medicines for hospitalized COVID-19 patients say they will stop putting people on the drug because it’s clear it isn’t helping.

Results released Friday from 1,542 patients showed the drug did not reduce deaths, time in the hospital or other factors. After 28 days, 25.7% on Hydroxychloroquine had died versus 23.5% given usual care—a difference so small it could have occurred by chance.

The results “convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit,” study leaders at the University of Oxford said in a statement.

This flies in the face of what the WHO still recommends, and presumably it will take some time before everybody starts to agree with everyone once more. However, I think we can abandon the idea that Hydroxychloroquine reduces the presence or severity of the disease. This is a pity, because it is cheap and well-tested, and dosages and side-effects are well understood. Stick to your Vitamin D3 – that still seems to be the best thing you can do.

The United Kingdom is testing an app on your smartphone that you use every day to send in your state of health, good or bad. 2.5 million people are submitting their presence or absence of symptoms, and then reporting on Coronavirus tests if they are done. A loss of smell and taste may be one of the clearest indicators of whether someone has COVID-19, this new study system suggests.

Some of the app users also reported results of PCR diagnostic tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Nearly 65 percent of roughly 6,400 U.K. residents who tested positive for the virus described a loss of taste and smell as a symptom, researchers report May 11th in Nature Medicine. And just over 67 percent of the 726 U.S. participants with a positive test also reported losing those senses. Only about 20 percent of all people who tested negative had diminished smell and taste.

Using data from the app, a team of scientists led by clinical researchers Claire Steves and Tim Spector, both of King’s College London, devised a formula for determining which symptoms best predict COVID-19. A combination of loss of taste and smell, extreme fatigue, cough and loss of appetite was the best predictor of having a positive result from the PCR test, the team found. Based on those symptoms, the researchers estimate that more than 140,000 of the more than 800,000 app users who reported symptoms probably have COVID-19.

The World Health Organization lists loss of taste and smell as a less common COVID-19 symptom, and again, seems not to be keeping up with the game. The new findings suggest that it should be added to the list of top symptoms used to screen people for the disease, the researchers say.

Thank you to ScienceNews for this last report.

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