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Update: March 2021
A lot has happened since July 2020 when we last updated this page. However, Utila is still there, and our objectives remain unchanged even if our timetable has been altered.
The original “revised” plan was to run out initial survey, or 2021 season as we call it, in the July of 2021. However, although there is much good news on the fight against the virus, it is probably unrealistically optimistic to believe that in 3 months things will have improved dramatically. So, the prudent course is to go for as late in the year as possible. In other word September. The plan is to run the project (Season 2021) from 6th September to 1st October.
Honduras has reopened to International flights, although travel via the USA for many nationalities is presently banned. Many countries are not allowing anything but “essential travel” currently. In addition, on arrival in Honduras, there is at present a period of quarantine required.
However, looking forward there is much talk of “vaccine passports” and the provision of quick testing kits, for use at home and at airports. All this should make international travel feasible once again. Although longer periods away are more likely to be the norm for those travelling.
DAN has produced some advice on the subject of Coronavirus , including an article entitled , “Seven tips for Preventing Covid-19 whilst diving”, and guidelines on the disinfection of Scuba Equipment. In terms of Wreckhunters our key priorities will be the safety of the participants in the programme and that of the local population.
In due course we will publish our guidelines on Diving in the world of Covid 19. Which are unlikely to vary dramatically from those advised by DAN. Clearly all participants will be required to comply with these.
Mike Haigh (FRGS), Project Director
Update: July 2020
Towards the end of March 2020 US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicated that the USA would be in “lockdown” for 10 to 12 weeks. As travel from the US is the most reliable method to access the Bay Islands, effectively this meant that any idea of running the scheduled Wreckhunters programme for 2020 was a non-starter.
At the time of writing Honduras is “closed” and has been since 01/05/2020.
Utila until recently had no confirmed cases of coronavirus but unfortunately that has changed. Even if this was not the case foreign visitors putting an additional strain on , by developed world medical standards , a fairly basic medical service would be irresponsible. The third world was always going to be more severely affected by Covid 19 than the first.
It was therefore an easy decision to postpone the 2020 season and move it onto 2021.
We are in touch on a regular basis with our key contacts in Utila and , as far as we can say at this time, there are very reasonable prospects a season next year.
This of course is dependant on the development of control measures for the virus.
Much has been written about the possibility of a vaccine to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2. It is unlikely that a vaccine will be readily available until early 2021. “Herd Immunity” is a term bandied about by the press but there are problems with this. Drug therapy may be another way to mitigate the effects of the SARS-CoV- 2 virus. A treatment followed by a vaccine would appear to be the most likely way forward.
The long-term risks to divers from exposure to Covid-19 are becoming clearer and research in this area is moving quickly. In short research is showing that individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 but with “mild” or no symptoms have suffered lung damage. Though it would appear that this is normally reversable. Of course the worse the patient is effected by Coronavirus the worse the damage. Any diver who has tested positive for Covid-19 would be wise to seek medical advice before diving again.
In terms of returning to actual diving activities post – “lockdown” various organisations are producing guidelines. In the UK a group of eminent diving medics ( which fortunately for me includes my own doctor ) have published a list of guidelines for diving. DAN have produced some useful information on the disinfection of Scuba equipment. It would be wise for diving practitioners to actually be “guided by the science” rather than pay lip service to it.
In summary, for the time being each individuals priority must be to keep virus free. We have every intention of running a programme for 2021 which will probably be the programme intended for 2020. There will be alterations to diving standards and methods as a result of coronavirus – at this point it is impossible to say exactly what these will be.
On the other side of the pandemic perhaps we will all appreciate just what a great privilege it is to be able to visit and travel in our underwater world.
Mike Haigh (FRGS), Project Director