British Diving Safety Group Approves Return to Scuba Diving

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British divers can resume scuba diving - with precautions (Photo: Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock.com)

The resumption of scuba diving in the UK has been given approval following an extraordinary general meeting of the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG) on 21 May. Following the announcement, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) issued a detailed set of guidelines to assist with preparation for a safe return to the water.

The approval is given explicitly to shore diving as this counts as an 'outdoor activity' in line with the easing of lockdown restrictions by the English and Northern Irish governments. Due to the devolved administrations of the UK's constituent countries, the lifting of restrictions and return to scuba diving does not, as yet, apply to Scotland and Wales. However, it is hoped that restrictions will be lifted nationwide in the near future, with an announcement by the Scottish government expected on 28 May, according to a press release issued by the BDSG.

Broadly speaking, the safety measures to be taken during dive excursions are the same as they would be for many other activities: respect the 2m distancing guidelines unless you are diving with a member of your own household, commit to a high standard of hand hygiene, abide by local legislation and follow any guidance given by training organisations that may supersede the standard advice.

While there is no specific approval given to boat-diving, the BDSG states that 'some boat operators might be able to meet [the] recommendations', and the more detailed BSAC documentation covering boat diving from both small and larger craft covers the spacing and separation requirements that are necessary to maintain appropriate Covid-19 distancing measures.

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Boat diving will have to allow room for increased separation (Photo: Clare Louise Jackson/Shutterstock.com)

The BDSG asks that divers apply 'a mindful, progressive return to shore diving', and recommends that 'only experienced and fit divers return to diving at this stage,' to prevent placing an unnecessary burden on emergency services. While the long-term physiological effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus remain unclear, divers who have had symptoms of, or tested positive for, Covid-19 are strongly recommended to seek medical advice, preferably from a doctor specialising in diving medicine. Divers are advised to contact the UK Diving Medical Committee (www.ukdmc.org) to locate a specialist.

BSAC's 'Safe Return to Diving Guidance' was issued shortly after the BDSG announced approval for the resumption of shore diving, but also includes advice for limited boat diving, subject to the size of boat, dive team, and available room for social distancing. Eight separate documents are available to download free of charge from the BSAC website, with detailed guidance covering Medical advice, Shore diving, Equipment, Rescue and CPR, Diver training, travel, boat diving – small boats and boat diving – charter boats.

The BSAC public statement notes that the guidelines 'are all interrelated and each should not be read in isolation,' adding that government regulation takes precedence if there is inconsistency with the BDSG recommendations, and that divers 'should take account of the significant break from diving caused by the lockdown and build their dive fitness slowly and avoid undertaking more challenging dives to reduce any increased burden on already strained emergency services and the NHS.,

'We believe that this framework takes the first steps in providing the necessary guidance to allow a safe return to diving activities where allowed by law,' said BSAC National Diving Officer Dai Atkins. 'When followed in conjunction with their training, safe diving protocols, and whilst exercising due caution and social distancing, members may now be able to resume shore diving activities and still act responsibly and considerately towards others.'

The complete list of documentation can be downloaded from www.bsac.com/advice-and-support/covid-19-advice-and-support/safe-return-to-diving-guidance, and will be updated as appropriate should new information regarding Covid19 come to light.

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