Testing for Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has become commonplace since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Obtaining a sample for testing currently involves the use of a single swab to collect samples from the throat and
nose. Taking a high-quality sample can be conducted by a variety of trained personnel or by the individual.
It is now routine for diving contractors to carry out screening and, when available, the testing of divers for SARSCoV- 2. This may occur during mobilisation and prior to going into saturation. Such testing is normally carried out by qualified staff on surface. However, it is possible that, despite every precaution, dive team members may still develop COVID-19 symptoms while offshore.
Saturation divers in the chamber complex may show symptoms of COVID-19 while under pressure. In such circumstances testing would be required and a member of the team, normally a Diver Medic, would be asked to take a swab sample in the chamber. Alternatively, the diver may take a self-swab of the throat and nose. No matter who performs the swab-test, it is important that good swabbing technique is observed in order to minimise the risk of inaccurate results. Good lighting and a clear view of the throat is required for the sample to be taken correctly.
It is vital that swab testing is done correctly to obtain an accurate result. To facilitate this, IMCA recommends that with immediate effect:
- IMCA Diver Medic training providers introduce SARS-CoV-2 swab-test training to their course programmes;
- diving contractors arrange a SARS-CoV-2 swab-test training session for all their dive team members who hold a Diver Medic qualification.
This training should include:
- watching a suitable SARS-CoV-2 swab-test demonstration training video;
- instruction on the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE), specification of PPE to be used, donning, doffing and safe disposal procedures;
- familiarisation with the instructions contained in a typical polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kit;
- instruction on safe working procedures for locking containers with lids in and out of chambers, while safeguarding the sample.
It is not necessary to purchase PCR test kits for this training. A sample PCR test kit instruction sheet is shown in Appendix 1 of this Information Note. A video showing how to take a combined throat and nose swab can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qHTBlxfNes
This video is from a respected source and demonstrates a self-test procedure. PCR test kits may vary from that shown in the video. The procedure for the taking of a sample by a Diver Medic will be the same as shown in the video referenced above. There are other videos available on how to undertake PCR tests which may be more suitable for the region in which the training is being conducted.
The Diver Medic should wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when undertaking the training and during the subsequent procedure. This should include:
- medical gloves;
- appropriate facemask; and
- eye protection.
Aids such as a pencil torch or a tongue depressor will assist with viewing the back of the throat. It is also recommended that subjects blow their noses and take a drink of water prior to the sample being taken. If taking samples from more than one diver, gloves must be changed and hands thoroughly washed between swabs. PPE must be correctly bagged and labelled after use before being locked out of the chamber and disposed of safely.
Further guidance on screening and testing of diving personnel for Coronavirus can be found in the latest revision of Information Note IMCA D 06/20 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance for Diving Contractors.