Scuba divers who have been only mildly infected with Covid-19 may no longer be required to wait three months or more before returning to the sport. The relaxation in the advice of medical professionals comes in the form of alterations to the latest guidance issued by the UK Diving Medical Committee (UKDMC).
Until now the committee’s advice has been that any scuba diver who had experienced a mild coronavirus infection should wait for three months before consulting a medical referee about fitness to dive, with this period extended to 12 months for divers experiencing more severe symptoms.
Divers who tested positive but were asymptomatic or experienced very mild symptoms now need to wait only one month after returning to full fitness before considering getting back in the water.
Those who experienced moderate symptoms should wait at least two months, and divers who required hospitalisation three months, before consulting a medical referee.
The new advice is based on growing evidence of fitness recovery rates after infection gathered through the Covid-19 vaccination programme, along with reported outcomes from Health & Safety Executive guidance on return to diving after Covid-19 for commercial divers, according to diving governing body BSAC.
Revised UKDMC tables employing a points system are used to determine the minimum period for recovery from a Covid-19 infection.
Divers who experienced no or few symptoms need to be able to answer “no” to all questions on the UKDMC medical declaration form (2 points); be aged under 45 or have received a full primary vaccination course at least two weeks before testing positive (1 point); and be able to run 1.5 miles in 12min 30 sec (2 points) or 1.5 miles in 20min 30 sec (1 point). Anyone scoring 3 or fewer points out of 5 would still need to be assessed for fitness to dive by a medical referee.
Question 6 in the medical declaration form: “Have you ever had a requirement for Medical Referee assessment in the guidance on return to diving after Covid-19 at ukdmc.org?” has been updated. Divers would need to tick “yes” if they had experienced more severe symptoms, or if they had no or mild symptoms yet scored 0-3 on the tables, and would then have to be assessed.
UKDMC forms are a legal declaration, so divers later found to have been untruthful in the event of an incident are likely to be considered uninsured and to be liable for any consequences. Full details of the revised requirements can be found on the UKDMC website.