The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) spreads through respiratory droplets or smaller aerosols, for instance when an infected person coughs, sneezes, blows their nose or speaks.
Personal hygiene measures to prevent infection include, among others, washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, keeping a distance to others and avoiding direct physical contact as well as refraining from touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze and wear a mask covering both your nose and mouth.
In general, we are all required to help save resources, which means limiting our diving activity (accident prevention) in order to keep resources in the health care system available, e. g. for patient transport and treatment. In some parts of the world, the availability of a hyperbaric chamber cannot be guaranteed at the moment, because many of them are closed. This should be considered when planning where to dive.
It is important not to share diving equipment whenever possible. In case of an out-of-air incident under water, however, you may not be able to avoid it. The use of rental equipment may pose a risk for transmitting the virus, although there have not yet been specific tests regarding how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive on the surface of diving equipment. If rental equipment is used during a diving course, the students should keep the same equipment for the whole duration. Also, the gear should be disinfected after it was used, especially regulators, BCDs, snorkels and masks that are used or tried on. The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has compiled a list of disinfectants in Europe that can be used effectively against SARS-CoV-2. Regardless of which measures or substances are chosen, it is of the utmost importance that the efficacy of these measures to disinfect against the coronavirus has been proven and the use for diving equipment has been cleared by the manufacturer. Still, you should use your own gear for all diving activity if possible.
The risk of transmission exists during any and all types of diving courses, whether on land, at the surface or under water. However, diving is typically done in a group of 2 or 3 people, which minimises the risk of infection.
The severity of coronavirus disease varies widely from person to person. If you tested positive for SARS-CoV2, you are no longer fit to dive, even if you have just undergone an examination and were cleared to dive.
As long as you have symptoms of any kind (fever, dry cough, headache, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, loss of taste or small or extreme fatigue), you need to refrain from diving. Please be aware that there may be damage to your lungs, central nervous system, kidneys or heart even in case of an asymptomatic infection.
To regain/get your fitness to dive after recovery from COVID-19, you should see a doctor who is specialised in diving medicine. Being symptom-free is not sufficient as opposed to after recovering from the flu.
- Divers who tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms should wait at least one month before going diving again after an examination
- Divers who had coronavirus with mild symptoms should wait three moths before going to renew their fitness to dive examination
- Divers who had coronavirus with severe symptoms, especially if the lungs were affected, need their peripheral oxygen saturation measured within their fitness to dive examination and will possibly also need a high resolution CT of their lungs after three (even better six) months; if they had cardiovascular symptoms, an ergometric test is also recommended.
In general, it is important to do an ECG and pulmonary function testing/a spirometry after an infection with COVID-19 (preferably while comparing the results to previous tests) in order to be sure that these organs were not significantly damaged. If the results show abnormal values, further testing is indicated (see above). Special attention should be paid to post-infectious scar tissue in the lungs, pleural adhesions (adhesions in the lung/chest membrane), pulmonary cavities or fibroses (pathological hyperplasia of connective tissue in the organs).
Update January 2021
We do not expect diving to be contraindicated if you get the COVID vaccine. As with any vaccine, if there are any side-effects, you should refrain from diving until you no longer have symptoms.