Who knew that divers would be hit with adjusting to even more health and safety precautions beyond the normal equipment set up and buddy check with the arrival of COVID-19?
Not to worry: you are not alone, and everyone from dive operators to instructors to avid divers are adjusting to enhanced sanitation and prevention measures against virus infection while diving.
As scuba diving takes place in the open air and underwater, if you are able to keep a distance from others on the dive boat and wear masks as much as possible before getting in the water, these precautions will help to prevent COVID-19 infections.
PADI’s global interactive map provides current information on dive operation openings, guidelines, restrictions and precautions. Divers can stay engaged with resorts and live-aboards on social media and can consider taking advantage of flexible cancellation policies to schedule a trip.
Dive and trip insurance is recommended, many international dive destinations aren’t ideal places to get sick. You don’t want to catch covid on a plane and start showing symptoms in a remote location. If you require medical treatment in a foreign country, that’s a real factor.
1. STAY HEALTHY AND FIT
This is not only crucial for diving safely, it’s also an excellent way to ensure your body’s natural defenses are fully effective. Among the easiest ways to maintain your fitness are to eat a balanced diet, sleep enough and exercise regularly. If you smoke or vape, stop. If you have any questions about your health and fitness to dive, contact your doctor or Divers Alert Network.
2. DON’T DIVE IF YOU’RE SICK
Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary widely but include headache, weakness, shortness of breath, cough, fatigue, fever, chills, muscle aches, loss of smell or taste, chest pain, poor concentration, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. If you are experiencing any symptoms, stay home until your doctor determines you are no longer contagious. Return to diving only after you have fully recovered, gotten your doctor’s approval and returned to baseline exercise capacity.
3. PRACTICE GOOD PERSONAL HYGIENE
Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, when hand washing is not possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (When using hand sanitizer, be sure to let your hands dry naturally.) Maintain a social distance and avoid direct contact with people outside of your household. Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth. If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbow or a tissue, and dispose of the tissue right away. When out in public wear a mask to avoid infecting others.
4. MAINTAIN AND DISINFECT YOUR GEAR
If you haven’t been diving in a while, be sure to have any gear you plan to use serviced according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. If it is not time to service your equipment, inspect it for signs of wear and tear, and test its functionality in a controlled setting. Be sure to disinfect your equipment too. Visit https://dan.org/health-medicine/covid-19/ to find DAN’s recommendations for diving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
5. HEED TRAVEL WARNINGS
If healthcare systems become overwhelmed and are unable to accommodate travelers’ emergency needs, outcomes can be dire. Air evacuations may be delayed or impossible in the current circumstances. If you travel despite warnings, you might be required to shelter in place for an extended period in your destination, or even contribute to the overwhelming of a healthcare system. Restricting your travel during this time keeps everyone safer and allows for restrictions to be lifted sooner.
6. OBEY LOCAL ORDERS
Once travel restrictions are lifted, it is important to research your destination to learn about local laws and customs in that area, especially those related to the pandemic. Once you arrive, be sure to respect any quarantine and distancing requirements and wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Remember that hotel and dive center staff are only enforcing these measures to keep you safe. In addition to being aware of local laws and customs, understand what emergency services are available to you in your destination should you need them. While DAN maintains a database of medical services available in key diving destinations, rapidly changing government regulations limit their ability to provide real-time information in nonemergency situations. Allow time in advance of travel for preventive medicine interventions such as health screenings, airport screenings, testing and even extended quarantines as part of your travel plans.
7. MANAGE YOUR RISK
When you assess the risks you may face when traveling, consider risks that you and your entire group are likely to face. Being more cautious than you normally would might just be the smartest move you can make in these unusual circumstances.