The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the diving industry to take an unexpected and extended stay of leave. However, with many countries making great progress in containing their respective COVID-19 outbreaks, some places are making a measured and steady return to scuba diving activities.
Advice from PADI and DAN on how divers can get back in the water safely.
Scuba divers around the world are eager to get back in the water and get their snorkels wet again. As diving operators reopen globally, PADI is encouraging divers to #DiveLocal.
To help divers prepare for the new reality of diving during COVID-19, PADI and the Divers Alert Network (DAN) each recently issued advice to dive operators on how to safely resume operations. SSI have created a similar tool in the form of their travel restriction map; this is searchable by country and offers a more detailed rundown of the restrictions in that area along with the sources for the information.
While this guidance gives divers a small idea of what they can expect when returning to their dive shop—reduced boat capacity, a possible disappearance of communal rinse barrels and simulated air sharing in training courses—the best practices also include ideas for what divers can do to keep the industry healthy and operating.
Please note: While these actions can reduce the likelihood of coronavirus transmission, the risk cannot be entirely eliminated when interacting with other people.
We’re conscious that we’re communicating to a global audience of divers, so we urge you to firstly follow the guidelines wherever you’re returning to diving. If local authorities are discouraging diving, be respectful of that – it may be in order to preserve emergency medical services. You should also be following the general safety guidelines outlined by the WHO (World Health Organisation), including maintaining a 1-2m distance from others where possible, frequently washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth, monitoring yourself for symptoms, and quarantining if you exhibit symptoms.
Stay distant at the surface
Stay six feet away from other divers until you are underwater, such as when riding a boat out to the drop, checking your buddy’s kit or renting equipment. This means, for example, you should inspect your buddy’s equipment visually before getting in the water, but not reach out to adjust any of their straps.
Keep at least six feet between you and other divers when in the water as well until you are securely below the surface. Once submerged, “breathing from scuba substantially reduces respiratory transmission concerns,” says PADI in the best practices document posted on the PADI Pros website. “This is obviously important underwater because close contact is important for safety, control, skill conduct and maintaining buddy contact.”
Breathe through regulators in close quarters
Some situations require proximity to other divers when at the surface, like dealing with a panicked diver or doing a tired diver exercise. While a regulator does not protect those around you from your exhalations, warns PADI, breathing through your regulator allows you to pull from your tank air, reducing the chance of inhaling respiratory particles floating around you.
Wash or sanitize hands while topside
“Divers should avoid touching each other’s gear, but sometimes it is necessary before, during or after a dive,” says PADI. “The best practice is for divers to wash/sanitize hands before and after touching their own and someone else’s gear, meaning before and after the dive in most instances.”
Exercise caution with sanitizer around canister fills
Frequent disinfection of hands and equipment is key to limiting transmission. But DAN warns divers to keep alcohol away from canister fills in order to avoid accidentally igniting a fire.
“Note that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are incompatible with compressed gas,” DAN says in its online FAQ. If you are filling your own tank, “alcohol-based substances should not come into contact with…cylinders and fill whips that are used with any compressed gas but especially oxygen-enriched gas. This would increase the risk of fire and explosion due to the high volatility of alcohol and its ability to ignite at relatively low temperatures.”
Washing hands with soap and water is a far preferable route. If hand sanitizer must be used, DAN urges divers to make sure their hands are “completely dry and all alcohol has evaporated.”
Smear defog, not saliva
Some divers swear spit clears a mask better than any defog. That debate will have to wait. Spitting nearby other people—especially into a rented mask—could increase the risk of transmitting coronavirus. Rely on defog for the foreseeable future to get a clear view underwater.
Hopefully some of the information above helps you back to scuba diving safely. here are some useful links.