With Boris Johnson's announcement yesterday, we can now see a path out of lockdown and the updated government guidelines on social contact. Here's how the easing of guidelines will affect English divers...
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnston, announced on Monday 22 February a planned roadmap for the easing of lockdown in England. We expect further announcements from the devolved administrations in the coming week.
The relaxation will be dependent on evidence confirming the timing is right to justify that the steps in the roadmap timetable are able to take place.
The four conditions that must be considered at each step of lockdown easing are:
- The success of the vaccine rollout
- The number of hospital admissions and deaths falling
- The amount of pressure on the NHS
- The impact of any variants
Providing evidence supports the relaxation at each five-week interval the steps have been announced to include:
Step 1: no earlier than 29 March
- Outdoor sports facilities including open-air swimming pools can reopen.
- Up to six people or two households may meet outdoors for exercise, sport or recreation.
- Formally organised outdoor sports can restart.
- Stay home order ends, but people are encouraged to stay local wherever they can.
We believe that when these changes are implemented, it will allow for shore diving and include allowing inland managed dive sites to reopen with Covid-19 secure measures in place as before. Travelling locally and limits on overnight stays will reduce the amount of access to diving locations.
Step 2: no earlier than 12 April
- Indoor swimming pools will be able to open for individuals and households.
- No indoor mixing of different households will be allowed.
- Self-contained holiday accommodation can open.
It is not yet clear if pools reopening will allow diver training to restart in indoor pools at this time but we will continue to monitor progress and advise as soon as possible.
Step 3: no earlier than 17 May
- People can meet outdoors in groups of up to 30.
- Six people or two households can mix indoors.
- Adult indoor group sports and exercise can resume.
- Indoor hospitality and hotels open.
Pool training should be able to resume where facilities allow access.
Step 4: no earlier than 21 June
- All legal limits on social contact (both indoors and outdoors) removed.
The implications of each easing step will be conditional on measuring against the four conditions and progress being made against them. The implications for diving will be evaluated as the detail of each change in the guidance is documented by the government.
On Friday 19 February the Wales First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced a relaxation of meeting people for exercise to allow four people to meet outdoors for exercise only but NOT socialising. However, travel by car for exercise is not allowed. The Welsh government are expected to make further announcements later this week.
The Scottish government are due to make their own announcement today, Tuesday 23 February.
The Northern Ireland government are due to make their own announcement on Monday 1 March.
What does this mean for UK divers?
With insight into an identifiable route out of lockdown, we have some perspective on when diving activity will be able to resume and it is now even more important that everyone prepares for that return following an extended break from activity.
Preparation for a return to diving
BSAC has produced detailed guidance on how all divers can prepare for a safe return to diving activity and minimise the risks of encountering an incident including:
- Personal fitness and preparation
Take steps to prepare yourself physically and mentally for a time when you are able to resume diving. Start slowly with a level of exercise that suits you and build on it slowly. You don’t need a gym or specialist equipment but sharing with a buddy can make it more enjoyable.
Make arrangements to have your equipment serviced in plenty of time. Not every service centre may be open at this time and travel restrictions may impact your ability to visit any centre that is open. If you are able to book a slot it will help to ensure there are no unnecessary delays.
- Start slowly
Plan your initial dives to allow yourself time to build up to an appropriate level of depth and level of challenge of a dive avoiding strong tidal effects.
This advice will be developed and supported with additional resources for instructors and divers over the coming months.