With the WHO declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, Active Elements has compiled some advice for divers concerned about catching the virus.
The world seems to be falling into a state of panic following the announcement that the new Coronavirus strain (COVID-19) is now deemed a Pandemic. While some are bulk buying toilet rolls and hand soap, the majority of the world continues as normal.
The latest advice is 'social distancing' between individuals, but in the world of Scuba Diving, it's critical to stay close to your buddy. So how can divers - especially dive guides & instructors - avoid the virus?
The way in which COVID-19 spreads is the same way as the common cold, so things like sneezing and coughing are the most problematic transmissions. This means that equipment that comes into contact with your face (mask, regulators etc) are most prone to become vessels to carry the virus from person to person.
The best way to avoid picking up the virus from scuba gear is cleanliness. At the end of a dive day, cleaning and disinfecting your gear (especially masks, mouthpieces of regulators and snorkels, and BCD oral inflators) will eliminate any germs residing on the equipment. It's also a good idea to carry cleaning wipes on your dive day so that you can clean your equipment before and after every dive also.
According to the US Center For Disease Control, household cleaners and disinfectants are just as effective as heavy-duty cleaners, so when rinsing and cleaning your gear, a simple 1% bleach solution will be more than sufficient for cleaning.
Going a step further, be sure to use your own gear where possible. Rental gear will have come into contact with several people and are more prone to carry the virus. Where rental gear is a necessity, carry cleansing wipes with you to mitigate the risk. The dive store/center will likely have disinfected the gear too, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Lastly, be sure that concerns over COVID-19 do not impact your willingness to share air, or perform other emergency drills below the surface. If you or your buddy are low on air, suffer a catastrophic air loss, or require the exchange of gear, be sure to do so. Many minor situations below the surface can lead to larger problems if not handled properly, so always follow your training. If you're concerned about the regulator you've just breathed from in an emergency, get in touch with the local health authorities (if in the UK, contact 111) and explain the situation.
As always, keep up to date with the latest advice and guidelines from the health officials in your area.