COVID-19, a strain of coronavirus, has the world in its grasp with scientists and researchers racing to find a cure. In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has reached over 190 countries, with - at the time of writing - over 334,000 confirmed cases and 14,500 deaths (World Health Organization, 24 March, 2020). The virus is spreading fast, and it does not look like it will slow down in the coming weeks.
As the world attempts to come to terms with this new reality we find ourselves being bombarded by (changing) facts, suggestions and opinions from countless sources. The media have already coined this landslide of information as an ‘infodemic’ triggered by the global outbreak of the virus. In response to this landslide we have put together this Blog to help narrow down the sources that we feel are most relevant to the scuba diving and watersports community.
BEFORE MOVING ON
An obvious characteristic of the infodemic is the continuous stream of updates. Updates on national and global statistics, policy and guideline changes, extreme consumer behavior, et cetera. The vastly accelerated flow of information and disinformation is fueling uncertainty, fear and irrational behavior. COVID-19 has gone way beyond ‘trending’ and ‘viral’. All we need to do to counter the downwards psychological spiral is to distance ourselves; to limit our own exposure to the media, whether TV, radio, internet or other sources; to maintain calm as well as optimism; to find ways to deal with our new reality; to create! Our current reality of indefinite isolation and confinement presents a great opportunity towards leisure, listening, loving and learning. Reconnecting with family and friends, reading a book ... or perhaps even writing one, learning to play an instrument, exploring e-learning opportunities, start teaching online, playing board games, et cetera. This is your chance to experiment, to try, to learn, to evolve! Take a leap and go for it!
A LITTLE ABOUT CORONAVIRUS AND COVID-19
A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. A novel coronavirus is one that has not been previously identified in humans. Late in 2019 scientists identified a new strain of coronavirus in Wuhan City, China. On 11 February 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially dubbed it Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19. The outbreak was officially recognized as a pandemic by the WHO on 11 March 2020. WHO should be your first and foremost source for correct and accurate information regarding COVID-19. It is currently one of the most cited sources of information on COVID-19. On the WHO website you’ll find an abundance of information, both for organizations and for individuals. Click here to go to the WHO website.
HOW DOES IT SPREAD?
COVID-19 is a new strain of virus, so it is not yet known exactly how this coronavirus spreads. It is thought to spread mainly through person to person contact including being in close contact with an infected person or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Elderly people and individuals with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of succumbing to the virus.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAY HEALTHY
Whether you’re at home or traveling, the WHO recommends practicing good hygiene to protect yourself against infection by:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer;
- Maintaining social distancing between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
- Practicing respiratory hygiene (covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow when you cough or sneeze);
- Seeking medical care early if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing;
- Staying informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider.
From day to day the list of myths about COVID-19 is growing. Below we have bulleted for you a number of false claims circulating on the internet. This list has been compiled based on myths shared on the website of the WHO, John Hopkins Medicine and the New York Post.
- You can protect yourself from the coronavirus by swallowing or gargling with bleach, taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.
- The coronavirus lives in the throat. Drink lots of water so the virus is pushed into the stomach where the acid will kill it.
- Sucking in hot air in a sauna or with a blow dryer can kill the virus.
- Holding your breath can prevent you from getting it.
- Vitamins will give you immunity from the virus.
- Ozone therapy cures the coronavirus.
- The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
- The virus only affects old people.
- The coronavirus will go away in the summer when it’s warm.
- The thermal scanners will catch everyone with the coronavirus.
- Ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick.
- A face mask will protect you from the coronavirus.
- Wearing gloves can decrease your risk of catching the coronavirus.
- If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without discomfort, you’re fine!
- The virus came from people drinking bat soup.
- You can get the coronavirus from your pet.
COVID-19 AND THE SCUBA DIVING COMMUNITY
First and foremost, as a diver you need to be responsible for your own well-being. If you are not feeling well, in any way, then you should simply NOT dive. Specific to COVID-19, if a person has lung or upper respiratory congestion, the flu or flu like symptoms, they should NOT participate in any scuba diving activities.
Possibly the two most essential measures in dealing with COVID-19 are personal hygiene and disinfection of scuba diving equipment. Both measures are underlined by many leading scuba diving organizations around the globe. Below we present a selection of media releases from various organizations.
Divers Alert Network (DAN) Europe is an international non-profit medical and research organization dedicated to the safety and health of divers. Early in March DAN reached out to its members sharing “Prevention Recommendations for our Diving Community”. The recommendations especially highlighted the importance of properly sanitizing and disinfecting scuba diving equipment, in particular the second stage and regulator mouthpieces, snorkel, BCD oral inflator and the inside of the mask. To read the full DAN recommendation click here.
Global leader in scuba diving certifications PADI published a set of “Health & Safety Recommendations and Precautions” on its website sharing ‘reminders, suggestions and resources for preventative measures to reduce the possibility of disease transmission - during dive training and EFR training operations, and throughout your routine dive activities’. The recommendations include suggestions specifically addressing teaching techniques during scuba diving courses. To access the full PADI blog post click here.
Scuba Schools International (SSI) released their “Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Training – Recommendation”. Unlike most of the recommendations screened by us SSI made the choice to distinguish between scuba diving and freediving activities. The importance of personal hygiene and disinfection are emphasized. To read the full SSI recommendation click here.
In a statement released to Dive News Wire, IANTD emphasizes its focus on health, safety and wellbeing in responding to COVID-19. IANTD encourages increased and enhanced communication with customers and customers to be, suggesting that this may be done digitally, and through other means of communication. The full statement can be found here.
In it’s most recent update CMAS recognizes that countries around the world are in different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to the pandemic CMAS has postponed all meetings, training camps, sport events at least until the end of May. CMAS has also established a COVID-19 Crises Management Board (CMB) comprised of CMAS board of directors, members and leading medical experts. The CMB will consider and assess the spread of COVID-19 throughout the world and the consequences of that spread for CMAS events. To view the full CMAS update click here.
NAUI posted a message to their dive community about COVID-19 urging everyone to stay safe and follow the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) and medical expert advice and guidelines in order to remain healthy, preserve your operations, and be ready for what comes after this crisis has passed. For the full message click here.
Most scuba diving certification agencies also underline the following recommendations:
- To communicate with clients and provide (frequent) updates on websites and through social media channels;
- To explore opportunities for online teaching and virtual class rooms;
- To continue, if not ramp up, marketing and advertising efforts so that existing divers and potential new divers are reached and informed. Do not quarantine your scuba diving marketing.
COVID-19 AND (SEA)WATER
A very understandable question in the water sports and beach going community is if COVID-19 can spread through (sea)water. According to a publication of Harvard Medical School swimming in pools should be okay since the virus won't survive in properly treated pool water. The WHO sets chlorination targets at a level much higher than is required to kill viruses like Covid-19. It recommends a chlorination level of 15mg.min/liter - which is enough to kill most viruses. Emphasis is placed again on practicing personal hygiene and on avoiding close contact with other people. Recommended personal hygiene measures include showering before and after swimming, disinfecting your hands after you’ve pushed and pulled door handles or touched your locker and washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you get back home. For more questions and answers on the Harvard Medical School site click here.
We came across an interesting piece shared by Surfrider Foundation titled “COVID-19 and Beach Water Quality” addressing the (un)likelihood of COVID-19 spreading through (sea) water. Whilst elaborating on the possibility of COVID-19 spreading through recreational waterways the article noted that there is currently no information available on the ability of the COVID-19 virus to remain viable in saltwater. As such it is unclear if swimming at saltwater beaches elevates the risk of contracting COVID-19. “However, communal spread is a serious issue so spending time at popular beaches, if in close contact to other beachgoers, will increase your risk” (Surfrider Foundation, 2020). For the entire article by Surfrider Foundation click here.
COVID-19 IN GREECE
As the pandemic spread towards Europe Greece was one of the countries to respond early and decisively to the emerging threat. A seemingly stacked approach was rolled out introducing progressively stricter measures to lock down the country. Greece has responded to COVID-19 in a manner that many would not have expected from a country whose institutional capacity has been strained to the limit by the economic crisis and subsequently the refugee crisis. The measures rolled out appear highly coordinated, with regular text messages in Greek and English, effective government messaging on social media and the robust 'Menoume spiti' (Μένουμε σπίτι) public service campaign.
Effective 23 March 2020 Greece is officially in a state of lockdown with citizens and residents instructed to stay home, or risk a 150-euro fine. Specific exemptions to the lock down are: going to work, getting medical care, going to a bank, shopping (including medicines), leaving home to assist family members in need, attending a ceremony and going out for exercise or walking the dog. “Individuals must carry their ID or passport at all times with them together with a completed transportation certificate (printed or handwritten) or a confirmation SMS in order to produce it during a routine check”. For detailed instruction click here.
Furthermore, the Hellenic Ministry of Civil Protection urges citizens and residents to abide by the guidelines presented below.
Luc, Karla & the Blue Yard Hub Team