Guidance for Recreational Sports: (Scuba Diving) during COVID-19
The objectives of these protocols are to:
- Offer guidance to diving personnel on preventing the spread of the virus; and
- Give considered advice on how to respond to suspected cases of COVID-19 among divers and boat crew.
How COVID-19 spreads
COVID-19 is transmitted when an infected person coughs or exhales, they release infectious respiratory droplets. These droplets most often settle on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones. Other persons may then become infected by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching their face, specifically: eyes, nose and or mouth. Additionally, if an individual is standing within one metre (3ft) of a person with COVID-19 they can become infected by inhaling the infectious respiratory droplets.
The key measure to prevent divers from acquiring COVID-19 is to prevent the virus from getting onto/into diving equipment and other surfaces involved. This presents unique challenges, but must be considered to ensure safety of staff and other users.
Stakeholders must familiarize themselves and utilize guidance from the Ministry of Health and Public and Environmental Health (Control Measures) (COVID 19) Regulations 2020 on the preventive and containment measures.
COVID-19 AND THE SCUBA DIVING COMMUNITY
As with advice given to the general public, remain at home as much as possible. Scuba Diving poses a number of potential injuries and health concerns- including “decompression sickness” and trauma resulting from at-sea injuries. Divers should take responsibility for their own wellbeing. If they are not feeling well, in any way, then you should simply NOT dive. Specific to COVID-19, if a person has lung or upper respiratory congestion, the flu or flu like symptoms, they should NOT participate in any scuba diving activities.
Possibly the two most essential factors in dealing with COVID-19 are personal hygiene and disinfection of scuba diving equipment. Both measures are underlined by many leading scuba diving organizations around the globe.
- Use defog solution instead of saliva on mask
- Use individual mouthpiece
- Sanitize all equipment as outlined below; including boat surfaces.
- Ensure disinfectant solution is available for use during dive.
General Coronavirus Protective Measures
- Disinfect your mask, BCD (including whistle and oral inflator), snorkel, and your regulators (not just the mouthpieces) thoroughly before and after use using a bleach solution or other suitable cleaning agent.
- Avoid the use of communal gear washing tanks that you cannot be sure have been regularly washed and disinfected.
- Avoid the use of rental gear unless you are able to wash and disinfect the gear as above before you go diving with it.
- In addition to normal sanitizing and cleaning procedures in place prior to Covid19 protocols, (that include washing down of all boat surfaces at the end of the day, rinsing and sanitizing gear), Dive operators should be following the latest guidelines as per Divers Alert Network recommendations for sanitizing equipment or other recognized international guidance. This takes into consideration disinfectants listed on the “EPA’s N list” combined with guidelines for disinfectants safe to use with life support gear.
- Avoid practicing air-sharing techniques or buddy checks in which two people might share the same regulator. The only situation in which this rule can be relaxed is in the case of a true emergency situation underwater.
- Ensure that you practice social distancing by remaining at least two metres (6ft) away from other divers whilst on the surface or on the boat. Close social groups are known to be particularly adept at spreading the virus.
- Wash your hands frequently using soap and water, ensuring that handwashing continues for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Wear a mask/ face covering (for nose and mouth) when in public spaces/ establishments.
- Prevent the transmission of respiratory illnesses by practicing respiratory hygiene – If coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or use disposable tissue and dispose immediately after use in an environmentally friendly and appropriate manner.
- If resuscitation of a diver is required, the recommendation from the Resuscitation Council is that only chest compressions be used; early defibrillation is considered if appropriate; and a cloth or towel be placed over the mouth of the victim.
- If you have fever, cough and or difficulty breathing, avoid contact with other people and contact your medical provider or Health Hotline: 232-9444 or 333-0911.
- Stay informed and follow advice given by the Ministry of Health.
- When traveling please consult the Public Health Team for any additional safety measures.
Disinfecting Diving Gear
Given the current threat of COVID-19 and the fact that the virus can survive for hours on solid surfaces, diving centers need to adopt basic prevention measures due to the uncertainty surrounding the spread of the virus. The following dive equipment should be properly sanitized and cleaned:
-Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) oral inflator
-Inner surface of dive mask
-Orally inflated Surface Marker Buoy (SMB)
Sanitizing diving equipment
- Sanitize all diving equipment in accordance with EPA and other international registered disinfectants.
COVID-19 poses a serious risk to the diving population. The nature of the work involves close contact, reusable respiratory/breathing equipment and sites that are distant form medical facilities.
The most effective way to minimize the impact of COVID-19 is by reserving diving activity for urgent or emergent reasons. In such cases the aim is to prevent the virus arriving at the work site, and ensure there is minimal chance of equipment contamination.
The evolution of the virus and its spread is a dynamic situation and further guidance may be updated as more information on COVID-19 becomes available. As knowledge of the hazards posed by the virus increases, guidance for divers may have to be altered. Any diver who has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 virus, or been infected by the virus, would be well advised to seek medical advice and clearance before resuming diving. Additional information and guidance may be found on the Ministry of Health’s website.
DEMA, The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association
World Health Organization- https://www.who.int/ May 10, 2020
IMCA D 06/20 - Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance for diving contractors