How Are Scuba Divers in Singapore Coping with Covid-19?

The emergence of the COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant impact on scuba diving in Singapore, as it has on many other popular activities throughout the world. Since the 7th April 2020 introduction of Singapore's Circuit Breaker, which intended to stop the virus' spread, many scuba divers have been stranded at home without access to scuba diving facilities.

Scuba diving, however, necessitates travel to specialized areas with facilities and permissions for the sport, unlike activities like tennis or cycling. As a result, even once lockdown measures were relaxed due to issues like travel restrictions and boat capacity limits, many scuba divers found it challenging to reintegrate into the "new normal."

How then is the vacation sector faring with the COVID-19 outbreak, especially given that Singapore is such a small island with few dive sites? How are scuba diving enterprises surviving in hard times, and how do divers who are stranded on a little island like Singapore satisfy their cravings for the huge oceans and swimming with marine life?

I got the chance to meet with local scuba diving enthusiast Yang Yihao, who, along with several of his diving mates, owns and operates a dive shop in the center of Singapore called Dive Box. Yihao talks to me about the concept of "Safe Diving" in Singapore and how businesses and scuba divers are advancing with safety measures in mind.

How Covid-19 Has Affected the Diving Community in Singapore

(GS Diving, 2021)

He begins by discussing how the pandemic has impacted Singapore's diving community, noting that recreational divers are limited to diving in swimming pools and other bodies of water. Many diving trip reservations can take up to two months before an individual diver can receive a slot allocation due to crowd control and social seclusion measures in place.

He adds that many companies are experiencing operating losses as a result of Singapore's government orders limiting operations like organizing boat trips to only 5 people per boat and/or a set number of people per region. Dive operators and schools are also impacted because they can't hold classes at their normal volume. Operators must also vote for slots, which may take up to two months.

His dive shop experienced a decline in local sales when the flu struck. Sales of diving equipment decreased as well as diving activity, and local merchants like Dive Box incurred significant losses throughout the lockdown.

Despite how difficult it was, the company persisted and maintained a good attitude. As more foreigners made online purchases from his web store over time—despite longer customs waits as a result of the virus control—Dive Box experienced an increase in exports. Sales increased in recent months as a result of a growth in higher-priced purchases, which he attributes solely to divers traveling less and utilizing their earnings to buy items they had put off buying for a long time.

Since the circuit breaker period, Yihao has spoken of his conflicted feelings toward the lockout because he and his business partners have used the extra time off to perform more business planning and make significant upgrades to both his physical and online retail stores. If the Circuit Breaker hadn't been there, this moment would not have been possible.

How Has the Singaporean Diving Community Stepped Up in Their Battle Against Covid-19

(Turtle Buddy Divers, 2021)

As we continued to talk, the subject of the community's fight against the pandemic to maintain scuba diving in Singapore came up. Due to its tiny size, Singapore has few places to scuba dive. As a result, a lot of local divers in this area have begun traveling to dive in nearby nations like Indonesia. Common local sites like Pulau Hantu are now crowded with local divers and other private ships that are unable to leave Singapore waters because that is no longer possible. Due to the overcrowding, many local dive sites were impossible to access, and as a result, many local boat operators are now compelled to investigate newer diving locations.

While waiting for their slots for open water courses in neighborhood swimming pools or nearby seas, students can participate in their classes concurrently in Dive Schools thanks to the use of video conferencing for online instruction.

Yihao adds that organizations like SSI Singapore have provided them discounts on a few products and course offerings in addition to a little reduction in their annual SSI XR Dive Center membership price. This enables his business to concentrate more on courses that may be held in public swimming pools and the open sea without the need for depth or mixed gas.

Safe Diving in Singapore

In Singapore, diving schools are required to adhere to the Standards & Procedures established by the diving organizations they represent. Recreational diving safety is a priority for the governing organization, RSTC, not only in Singapore but also globally.

For Yihao and his company, they have added another set of strict internal regulations for visitors who are scuba diving instructors and divers to his actual retail location. They have also tightened the conditions before employing instructors so that they can be associated with the company.

How Does an Individual in Singapore Dive Safely?

In addition to discussing the risks associated with Covid-19, Yihao discusses his safety precautions for scuba diving in general. As a diver, he points out that it is important to understand that each activity has its own unique set of risks. It is crucial for a diver to maintain good discipline and to avoid making any mistakes that could put him or others around him in danger. He adds that aquatic control is of utmost importance.

Additionally, proper instruction is necessary to provide divers the knowledge and abilities to deal with problems in the water, such as equipment malfunctions. It greatly helps to dive with an experienced instructor or a friend who is familiar with the seas. Particularly one who is similarly trained and makes use of the same equipment so that one's partner can offer assistance in any circumstance.

A diver's understanding of gases and their corresponding nautical depths is crucial for longer dives. Additionally, communication is essential, whether it is with the boat captain or your individual dive partners. Obtaining the assistance you require on the surface is equally critical, as is doing any pre-dive sequential checks and organizing the modalities of entry, descent, and ascent for each dive.

How Does Your Business Ensure Safety?

(Turtle Buddy Divers, 2021)

The number of classes and people present at any given time have been limited as a result of the pandemic safety precautions used in scuba diving training and courses.

As he only conducts sessions with a maximum of one instructor to three pupils, Yihao and his company adhere to the safety guidelines. Additionally, he makes sure that his dive instructors are knowledgeable on safe diving procedures because difficult times demand attention to detail and meticulousness.

Dive Box is now preparing trips for divers who have taken classes with them for recreational diving because he believes that doing so will prevent any misunderstandings regarding practice and understanding between people. It's crucial to keep everyone on the same page during these situations and work with those who are knowledgeable with the procedure.

Nevertheless, the implementation of safety measures has given rise to a new normal for scuba divers. New difficulties will occur as more companies, like Dive Box, continue to foray into these uncharted seas, therefore it's critical to discover innovative solutions to stay afloat and adjust to changing conditions. As a result, Singaporeans who want to strengthen their aquatic competency can now enroll in SSI XR Foundational training at Dive Box.

What is the Outlook for Scuba Diving in Singapore in the Near Future?

Borders won't open any time soon, Yihao and a lot of other Singapore divers can agree on that. Nearby nations like Malaysia and Indonesia, which local divers typically visit, are dealing with new epidemic waves every day. As these nations continue to fight the virus, their diving businesses are at a halt.
Considering that the majority of international suppliers of diving equipment are currently conducting their business from homes, they are also experiencing significant setbacks in their shipping services.

However, local scuba divers are optimistic because of the ongoing vaccination campaigns worldwide. Yihao hopes that the borders will soon reopen so that he and his other diving companions can resume their dives in the vast international waters. Even though Singapore is a small island nation, they will have to make the most of it for the time being.
Author: Clifford Chong

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