This page contains advice about health and safety risks posed for occupational divers if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
The current picture
The global spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has allowed additional data to be gathered on its effects upon occupational divers.
Many people may be affected, ranging from being asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) to suffering from severe respiratory symptoms. Resulting incidents of respiratory distress have resulted in some people showing possible longer-term damage to their lungs than others.
This continues to highlight the importance of establishing safe medical standards for those who may have been infected with COVID-19.
Recent international experience and medical studies have allowed hyperbaric specialists to establish updated advice on what to do if exposed to COVID-19 and how to best protect divers.
An approach adopted in the UK and endorsed by Diving Medical Advisory Committee (DMAC) allows for an alternative to the 1 month stand-down for divers who are either asymptomatic or experience mild symptoms that resolve within 2 weeks with a return to a normal level of fitness.
What we know
A respiratory injury can cause serious harm to a diver.
Occupational divers have to pass annual medical assessments to be deemed to be medically fit.
With limited studies into the effects of COVID-19 on occupational divers, general clinical observations indicate that COVID-19:
- transmits easily from person to person
- means a person may be asymptomatic but still test positive
- may not present symptoms for 10-14 days
- often shows symptoms similar to influenza
- can include serious respiratory disease such as chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
The best way to protect yourself and others around you from the effects of COVID-19 is to be double vaccinated and boosted.
Anyone with respiratory symptoms should not dive and should arrange for COVID-19 testing. If testing is negative, they should see their GP for further advice and appropriate treatment for their symptoms.
Anyone being vaccinated should monitor for any side-effects (generally these are nil or mild) and do not dive if feeling unwell. A return to diving can occur when any symptoms have passed.
If someone is a “Household Contact” (as per the Ministry of Health classification) they can dive, but for the first 5 days they should take a rapid antigen test (RAT) every day. Household Contacts | Unite against COVID-19(external link)
If someone has tested positive for COVID-19 they must not dive even if they are asymptomatic. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 should advise the Diving Hyperbaric Medicine Service (DHMS) at email@example.com and follow any health advice.