How to protect yourself against the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) while diving

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How to protect yourself against the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) while diving

Due to the recent outbreak (now declared as a pandemic by the WHO) of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the team at Master Divers are working to keep everyone safe and virus free while still being able to enjoy some diving here on Koh Tao. So far, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 on Koh Tao and the numbers are relatively low in Thailand right now so this is the time to act, to ensure it stays that way.


Basic Protective Measures

We have put together some basic recommendations to help protect yourself and others. First of all, we would like to start off with some personal protective measures which have also been suggested by the WHO:

  1. Wash your hands frequently
  2. Maintain social distancing
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Practice respiratory hygiene (using tissues, sneezing into your elbow)
  5. If you have fever, cough or difficulty breathing, seek medical care
  6. Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

This epidemiological situation is constantly evolving, so stay up to date and learn about all the protective measures against the new coronavirus on the WHO website. You can also check the resources made available by the Ministry of Health of your country of residence.


Properly disinfect your dive gear

At Master Divers, we are taking precautions against the spread of the disease amongst our divers. Early information suggests that this new coronavirus may survive on surfaces for a few hours, so we are disinfecting our gear after each use and we suggest that you ensure that any rental gear that you may be using has also been disinfected in-between divers.

Properly sanitising equipment is important, in particular;

  1. Second stage / regulator mouthpiece
  2. Snorkel
  3. BCD oral inflater
  4. The inside of your mask

Which cleaning solutions to use?

DAN Europe have some recommendations with regards to this question;

Household cleaners are as effective against COVID-19 as they are against the common cold and flu viruses. In this regard, they recommend the use of a solution of 1% aqueous solution of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) with an application time of > 15 minutes, taking care the solution reaches every part (total immersion). Be sure to use product following the manufacturer’s instructions and rinse with fresh water.

For common surfaces (tables, handles, switches, chairs, etc.) they recommend using only products approved for surface disinfection, such as sprays, wipes or suitable disinfectants.

Bear in mind…

  1. Products that are commonly used to clean dive gear but are ineffective against coronavirus include antibacterial and chlorhexidine mouthwashes or sprays.
  2. There is no evidence that application of hot soapy water is effective with regard to disinfection, except at temperatures > 40°C and for application times > 20 minutes (e.g. machine wash).
  3. The use of approved surface disinfection products, such as sprays, wipes, etc., with procedures other than total immersion in a sodium hypochlorite solution as indicated above, does not guarantee disinfection of diving equipment.

Covid-19

What about the buddy check?

Here at Master Divers we complete a full buddy check before every single dive. If you remember the 5 steps of a buddy check you will soon realize that you will share a lot of the personal diving equipment during this check, for example while you are breathing from your buddy’s alternate air source.

Even in times of Coronavirus you should still complete a full buddy check. A simple solution is to communicate with your diving partner upfront: one option could be that when he or she sets up the equipment, they will only test the alternate air source by using the purge button, but won’t actually breathe from it. This way, you can be sure that you are the only person who has been breathing from your buddy’s alternate air source since it’s last been sanitized.

divers-during-safety-check

The salinity of seawater kills the virus within a very short time, so once you are under water, you don’t need to worry too much about sharing your buddy’s alternate air source – whether it is to practice an emergency skill or should you actually need it in an out of air situation.


Will my insurance still cover me?

This is a good question and not one that is easy to answer. We recommend you check with your insurance company to ensure that you are still covered during this time and if so, what restrictions may be in place.

For instance, DAN Europe have stated that if you decide to travel against the guidelines issued by your Government, you are putting yourself at excessive risk and DAN Europe’s insurance may not cover claims caused by Covid-19. On the other hand, if you have travelled abroad before your Government issued restrictive measures, cover stays active unless your government provides early repatriation from the high risk area which you are expected to accept.


Diving after the Coronavirus

From what we understand today, Coronavirus can cause a form of pneumonia and other respiratory problems. which can create pulmonary scar tissue. Any scar tissue in the lungs can predispose a diver to a pulmonary barotrauma. DAN explains the risk:

Since barotrauma can occur with hyperinflation of lung tissue, a diver’s lungs must be able to tolerate rapid changes in volume and pressure. Fibrotic or scarred tissue is of concern to scuba divers because it has reduced elasticity and compliance in its interface with normal lung tissue. Any weakness in lung structure may be prone to rupture from even minimal over-inflation.

Source: https://www.dansa.org/blog/2019/12/01/predisposition-to-pulmonary-barotrauma

At this stage there is still little to no information available on how long you should wait after recovering from the Coronavirus and before starting to dive again. Of course this will be an individual case-to-case decision and you will certainly need a medical sign-off from a physician.

For your own health & safety and for the safety of other divers in the group, you should always make sure that you have fully recovered, are healthy and fit before planning any new dives.


Keep yourself up to date!

There are new articles and updated information on the situation pretty much daily and we will do our best to keep this blog post updated:

1. On the 11th of March PADI shared some interesting points about the topic on their blog and you can read the full article here.

2. In the beginning of April the Scuba Diving Magazine published a great article on how to disinfect your dive gear – this will be a fantastic resource even after the Corona crisis.

3. We have published a collection of all the questions we have received in the past few weeks. This article on the Master Divers Blog covers the 10 most important things you need to know if you are planning a trip to Koh Tao this year!

4. In July the Scuba Diving Magazine posted an updated article on ‘How to Disinfect Your Dive Gear’ and you can look it up here.


Please remember that this is a rapidly evolving situation, keep up to date with recommendations from local authorities and the WHO website.


Image credits: Aqualung Assets, private.

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