And so the debate begins; what does the future of diving, after the dreadful rampage the Covid-19 virus has coursed across the planet, look like? And, without any end in sight, are we even near to finding an answer?
The posts have begun on social media, and not before time, demanding an answer. Some fretful divers desperate to know if their once-yearly dive trip, booked last year in the cold winter months whilst dreaming of warm tropical waters, is going to go ahead and others, a little more desperate - yes - asking more pressing questions like: Is all the hard earned cash I ploughed into my dive centre going down the Covid-pan? And, I am diving instructor, I have to travel to where the diving is, what now?
Like all businesses linked to tourism, pleasure, leisure, sport -anything that involves social gathering (bars, restaurants, concerts …) and close contact - scuba diving … the future is unclear & daunting. Yes we are not on the frontline of this world health disaster, and boy, if I speak for myself and all the people around me, we are in total awe of those jobs being done to save & protect lives, however we do need to work, survive & restart our lives like the rest of the planet - at least one day in the future anyway.
Tourism, and many of the sectors of activity mentioned, serve as the majority income & survival of many economies: the Maldives, Caribbeans, Seychelles … and so the importance of these businesses, including scuba diving, finding a safe way to reintegrate is not only essential to those that work within the industries but vital for the countries themselves. Of course the question as to whether the populations of these countries benefit as much from tourism as they should is another debate I would happily enter.
The problematics surrounding the reopening of dive centres & the dive industry are many but the main, posing questions to those involved, is the subject of equipment hygiene & proximity safety.
As many of you dive will know, not everyone has their own equipment & thus the amount of shared equipment in dive establishment goes from wetsuits to the very part you put in your mouth - regulators. Although many centres have very strict guidelines concerning the disinfecting & sterilising of equipment between uses the question has to be asked - is it enough? And, do we know if it’s sufficient? Then there is the issue of where the dive centre is based; do local guidelines put ample importance to the subject? The fact is that we don’t know enough yet about the Covid-19 virus to know what will kill it and render equipment safe after use.
Concerning proximity: well any of you reading this that are dive instructors, & those of you who remember your first dive experiences, will know that this is an activity that is up-close-and-personal. No doubt about it, when you are teaching someone, or tending to a diver needing assistance the 1 metre distance (France), or 2 in most places, is impossible to respect. Solving the issues a scuba diver may encounter underwater cannot be taken lightly when teaching on the surface - fact!
Here, for the purpose of highlighting the subject of reopening our scuba diving activities, only 2 issues are looked at; there are many others including the professional profile of a dive instructor who travels in search of work … unfortunately, as with many questions arising in the wake of this pandemic, we are far from finding an answer. We can only hope that one day, in the near future, we will witness again the awesome feeling as we descend into the magic of the underwater world.
In the meantime, fellow divers, dive instructors and those of you involved through travel or equipment - in fact anybody who has taken the time to read this - stay safe, stay home, continue being patient. Look after one another! Until we dive again!
Finally, we would be happy to hear of your concerns & personal thoughts on this subject.