The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has upended the normality to which we had all grown accustomed. This applies to the Amateur Radio pastime of Award Hunting as well.
I’ve encountered a couple of issues related to COVID-19 that have hampered my award hunting efforts.
A popular way to maintain the integrity of operating awards is to have third parties confirm that an award application is valid. I’ve done this in the past by taking a small stack of QSL cards with a filled out award application to a local club meeting. I get two volunteers to eyeball the cards and sign the application and mail it off to the award sponsor.
But there are no in person club meetings now, at least for us. All club activities are conducted via Zoom. That makes card checking more difficult. Yes, one could drive the application and QSL card packet to a couple of houses all while maintaining proper social distancing. Some might think that a bit too intrusive.
I have a 40M endorsement application for my S6S award all printed up. It’s just waiting for some time when I can have two other Hams check it and sign off on it. So applications are sitting idle.
International Mail Interruptions
The exchange of mail at the International level due to COVID-19 meant some QSL card requests and award applications are delayed or are not possible at all. Earlier this year I had a Sudanese QSL card request returned due to mail service to the country being suspended.
So getting that last physical QSL card you need for some awards will be more difficult. Thankfully, service levels overall have improved but there’s no telling if additional surges in infection rates might roll back any progress that’s been made. International mail is in flux.
So card requests and award applications have been slowed or blocked from delivery.
Up-to-date USPS service alerts are available online.
So, what are we to do? Just wait to chase awards after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and the world returns to normal? Not at all!
There are a large number of awards for which you can apply that do not require QSL cards be mailed or checked by a third party. Some require no QSL cards at all. Now would be an ideal time to pivot your focus on some of these awards instead. Here are a few examples:
Work stations around the Mediterranean Sea for the Certificato Del Mediterraneo.
Trace the path of Europe’s Royal Highway for the Via Regia Award.
The FT8 Digital Mode Club offers a large number of awards, none of which require QSL cards. The list of awards is quite extensive but here’s a look at one example, the Worked Canadian Stations Award.
The IARU Region 3 organization offers the Region 3 Award for working 5, 10 or 20 member nations. Many award flavors are available for different bands and/or modes.