Divers Alert Network Europe Issues Covid-19 Guidelines for Operators
The Diver's Alert Network in Europe (DAN Europe), supported by the European branch of the Recreational Scuba Training Council (RSTC) has issued a list of 10 recommendations on risk prevention and mitigation for diving operations in the time of Covid-19, once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
The document answers many questions that have been circulating throughout the dive community, as to what action dive centres and boats should take in order to prevent the spread of infection. It does not address concerns that divers might have about the long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the body, nor what medical precautions divers who have been infected with the virus should take.
A summary of the key points is listed below:
- Divers should maintain social distancing requirements with a 1-metre minimum separation or greater if exceeded by local guidelines (2m in the UK); maintain good personal hygiene and regular handwashing, and the use of protective masks within a dive centre should be mandatory.
- Any surface or equipment a diver might come into contact with should be properly and regularly disinfected, using recommended cleaning products to ensure proper hygiene and prevent corrosive damage to vulnerable equipment.
- Rental gear should be disinfected after every use, all sets of equipment should be stored separately and masks, regulators and snorkels kept in closed bags before and after use. Masks should be disinfected any time a customer tests it for fit. There is no need to replace second stage mouthpieces as both internal and external components will require thorough disinfection.
- Equipment should not be cleaned in communal rinse tanks, but under running water. gear hung out to dry must be separated.
- Physical separation should be maintained on boats, equipment should be assembled prior to loading and crew handling equipment should wear gloves and protective masks. Dive masks, regulators and snorkels should be protected (eg in bags) before use. Divers should use defog products, not saliva, to clear their masks and should rinse them in open water, not buckets. Social distancing must apply to entry, exit and the use of tag lines; it is recommended that all boat passengers wear protective masks.
- Distance should be maintained during buddy checks and should not touch another diver's equipment. Divers should use alternate air sources in the event of a gas-sharing emergency or exercise and avoid donating the primary second stage – these guidelines may be superseded by agency rules during training.
- Although it is unlikely that an active virus could pass through a compressor, it remains a theoretical possibility and compressor inlets should be suitably located. Staff filling tanks should maintain high standards of personal hygiene and wear gloves and other PPE to avoid contaminating cylinder valves and filling hoses. Alcoholic hand-sanitizers should not be used in an oxygen-enriched filling area (ie manual blending of nitrox/trimix etc.)
- In the event of an emergency requiring CPR, PPE and other protective barriers must be used at all times, checking for breathing should be done visually by looking at the chest and not close to the victim's face. In the event that a victim is not breathing, chest compressions should be given without rescue breaths. Any PPE or other equipment used during the procedure should be suitably disposed or disinfected of once the situation has been resolved.
- There is no clear guidance on how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus can survive in water, however, studies on the SARS-CoV-1 virus show it can remain infectious at the water's surface for some time. Distancing rules and the proper disinfection of equipment should apply both in the water and out of the water.
- Dive operator action plans should be updated to include the recommended advice, and emergency action plans should be updated to include specific information regarding any case involving a suspected infection and procedures for isolation.
Divers should read the document in full as these recommendations will undoubtedly be widely implemented, although they may be superseded by local regulations (minimum distancing guidelines vary between countries, for example) and also by training agency regulations. Needless to say, the ongoing situation remains fluid and the recommendations may change, hence divers planning an excursion should contact their dive operators for the latest advice. The full document can be downloaded at this link.