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COVID-19 and radio amateurs in IARU-R2

After the COVID-19 pandemic began, up to April 2, 2020 the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported 247,473 confirmed cases and 5,600 deaths in America.

It has been considered that COVID-19 has had an impact on the economy of thousands of people. Due to its high level of infection, governments have established quarantine measures among those adopted to prevent virus propagation among the population. At global level, this has affected the education of more than 90 % of students due to the closing of schools (more than 1.5 billion of children and youths).

Radio Amateurs

In America, radio amateurs have commented that they have been following the isolation measures in their homes and in their community, and that they maintain the distance of two meters from one person to another and avoid attending social gatherings. Radio clubs are using virtual meetings via web.

In most countries in the region, people have commented that they have been quarantined in their homes for more than 2 weeks without going out, which has led to some degree of anxiety and to an increase in food consumption or to loss of appetite and insomnia.

Communication networks

Due to COVID-19, there has been an increase in the use of social communication media among the population, as well as use of virtual classes implemented by several education institutions at all levels, given that students must remain at home.

So far, radio amateurs in most American countries have reported no problems in their Internet service to send and receive messages. However, there have been some reports of deficient VoIP communications in several conventional Internet applications at certain hours of the day.

Message network

For about three weeks now, radio amateurs have implemented a chat message network using an Internet app, formed by emergency communications representatives from several IARU R2 member societies, forming groups for South America; the Caribbean (which also includes RAC in Canada) and the Winlink Technical Support Group (which includes the member societies of Central America, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Federacion Mexicana de Radio Experimentadores).

With Federacion de Radio Aficionados de Cuba (FRC), communication has been maintained via regular email with Prof. Arnaldo Coro, CO2KK, Area C Emergency Coordinator and with Dr. Carlos A. Santamaria, CO2JC, FRC Emergency Coordinator.

VoIP Radio amateur Communication Networks

For approximately one year, Central American member societies have implemented the FRACAP VoIP Echolink Network, where radio amateurs from Central America and the United States usually reporting. Besides, the Americas Digital Network in the VoIP DMR mode (sponsored by Radio Club de Chile), with reports of radio amateurs from Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil and Chile in this network.

Frans, J69DS, from St. Lucia, has provided support in the compilation of VoIP EchoLink/IRLP nodes with their VHF frequencies in several Caribbean islands.

ITU Winlink Network for the Americas

The ITU Winlink RMS node network in Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic is currently in operation, thanks to coordination from Federacion Mexicana de Radio Experimentadores (Jonathan Remba, XE1BRX, and Alfonso Tamez, XE2O); Mike Burton, XE2/N6KZB, from the Winlink development group; Miguel Alcaine, ITU Area D Representative and Rodrigo Robles, ITU Region 2 Emergency Representative, and to representatives of the Central America, Panama and Dominican Republic member societies that form the Winlink technical support group.

In Curacao, Brett Ruiz, PJ2BR, VERONA President, has provided support to create the e‑mail address list of the Winlink network of radio amateurs residing the Caribbean islands. Besides, Brett commented that he has been able to connect via HF using Winlink to the HI8COE node in the Dominican Republic.

Individually, several radio amateurs have reported that they have helped other radio amateurs, via web conferences, PEER TO PEER, from other countries with the installation of the Winlink Express user program and in the delivery and reception of conventional and IARU-format messages through the Telnet mode as an initial form of learning about the use of the Winlink global network.

Eng. Rodrigo Robles (ITU) has indicated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken in several Caribbean islands, there can be a delay in the installation of the RMS HF/VHF nodes that ITU had planned for installation in seven Caribbean islands.

Radio Amateur HF Net

Radio Club de Chile, Liga Colombiana de Radio Aficionados, and Club de Radio Experimentadores de Nicaragua, through the EMCOR IARU R2 chat group, have provided the list of frequencies in the different HF bands and VHF repeater frequencies that could be used in case the conventional Internet service failed due to the saturation of cells or problems in the cloud of the e‑mail servers.

Conclusion

For radio amateurs in Region 2, the COVID-19 pandemic is an experience that has affected our homes, communities and countries in different ways. Besides, it has rekindled the solidarity and support that radio amateurs can offer to their communities, neighboring countries, governments and NGOs involved in relief work, via the amateur radio stations installed in our homes, with the use of communication networks via radio and/or the different VoIP modes used by the radio amateurs as an alternate communication channel for the delivery and reception of messages from diverse origins.

73

Cesar Pio Santos Andino, HR2P
IARU R2 EMCOR

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