Hoping for a comeback, a few dive shops in San Pedro Town are preparing for a re-opening by adapting to guidelines shared by the Divers Alert Network (DAN), focusing on protecting staff and customers, disinfection, infection control and limiting the spread, along with how equipment and operations can be best administered. A detailed document of the guidelines can be accessed HERE.

These recommendations by DAN aim to enable businesses to resume operations as responsibly and safely as possible. DAN hopes that the information shared is useful for everyone. However, they do not expect everyone to adopt each measure, thus, they encourage dive shops to implement what works best for their businesses. Below are some pointers provided by DAN.

Protecting Staff from COVID-19

Dive shops are encouraged to use protective face masks, hand hygiene and gloves, when staff are in direct contact with clients. Social distancing is highly encouraged, as is reducing the number of people in certain areas. Shops are asked to kindly designate areas for the staff only, including equipment maintenance areas, offices, and classrooms. Clients are encouraged to disinfect their equipment after every use. These measures can also avoid divers getting infected.

Disinfecting Dive Shops

Disinfection operations will need to become a standard operating procedure, following local official guidelines and staff must be trained in this new requirement. The areas with a priority to disinfect regularly are high-touch surfaces such as bathrooms, countertops, door handles among others.

Of importance is to know that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are incompatible with compressed gas, particularly oxygen-enriched gas. The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is recommended only when soap and water is not available. If alcohol-based hand sanitizers are used before filling cylinders, ensure hands are completely dry and all alcohol has evaporated.

Controlling the spread

According to research on SARS-COV-2, or COVID-19, the virus can survived for 2-3 days on plastic and steel. Itís survival rate is about 24 hours on cardboard, up to four hours on copper and up to three hours in aerosols caused from a cough or sneeze. There is insufficient data to reveal how long it can survive on fabrics. Disinfection starts with good practice of social distancing, reducing the risk of viral transmission between divers using rental equipment. It is also recommended that when closing the dive shop for the day to disinfect the premises with easily obtainable products to render the virus ineffective.

The use of rented equipment

Equipment can continue to be rented, but additional care should be taken to mitigate contamination. Some measures include:

*Restricting access to the rental area and take the rented equipment out to the client.

*Disinfect returned rental equipment and rinse thoroughly with fresh water and allow to dry before using it again.

*Returned rental equipment should be stored in a separated area from other equipment that has already been disinfected.

*Instruct clients not to touch the cylinder valve outlet or regulator inlet when assembling and disassembling their scuba unit. Alternatively, consider providing divers with a pre-assembled rental set and instruct them to not disassemble the set after the dive. As long as your staff work with clean hands or gloves, this will prevent contamination of the cylinder valve outlet and first stage regulator inlet.

*Train staff that handle used rental equipment on how to properly disinfect the materials and protect themselves.

*Those dive shops catering to a client diving for several days, label the rental equipment so that client always gets the same equipment every time.

In San Pedro Town, several dive shops are looking to implement these recommendations. Speaking with Rick Sutherland at Ramonís Village Resort, he shared that the measures will be very helpful for their operations. The information will be discussed among their dive shop personnel so they are acquainted with it and know how to protect themselves and the clients as well when business resume.

Somos Dive Shop indicated that such guidelines are necessary to ensure the safety of staff and the guests. They said that after going through all the information, the found it very helpful and encourage all other dive shops on the island to implement DANís recommendations to their operations.

Belize is expected to open its doors to international visitors on August 15th, when the Philip Goldson International Airport re-opens. Ambergris Caye depends immensely on international tourism. Among these international visitors are thousands of divers, who find the waters around Ambergris Caye a haven for diving.

With the new way of life triggered by COVID-19, a few basic rules are here to stay, including washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, maintaining social distancing of at least six feet, and avoiding direct contact with other people are also recommended. In addition, everyone is encouraged to avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose.

San Pedro Sun