Manado, North Sulawesi - The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry launched on Friday a guidebook for dive operators on how they can continue the business safely under the health protocol during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Authored by professional divers with advices from a global divers' association and health officials, the 35-page book details what operators must or must not do in arranging recreational dive across the archipelago.
“While dive community all over the world has reputation for the highest safety standard even without the pandemic, we must now raise the bar if we want to keep the business staying afloat,” Ricky Yoseph Pesik, the ministry's expert for digital and creative economy industry, told a conference in the North Sulawesi capital Manado.
Himself is a certified diver, Ricky said the government is very serious in implementing high diving safety standard because the country has among the world's biggest dive spots and “is home to 65 percent of the so-called coral triangle”, a large area of tropical marine waters encompassing six countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The triangular area has the world's biggest shallow-water coral species, the favorite spots for global divers.
Ricky said the new dive guidelines were the implementation of the ministry's cardinal virtues to bring recovery to the tourism industry, namely cleanliness, healthy, safety and environmental sustainability (CHSE).
The guidelines are welcomed by William Ziefle, the president and CEO of Divers Alert Network (DAN) -- a global organization that promotes scuba-diving safety with around 2 million members worldwide.
In fact, many parts of the guidelines have been based on science-based recommendations and expertise from DAN.
After months of being stuck at home due to global travel restrictions, “divers are eager to go back in the water … for many, Indonesia tops their list,” Ziefle said in a video message during the conference.
He thanked the Indonesian government for making efforts to improve diving safety measures in accordance with the global standard.
“DAN is pleased to join you in this effort. We also congratulate the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy for completing the technical guidelines for divers,” the American said.
“These guidelines will guarantee that every necessary safety precaution is being followed. We are honored to help shape the future of diving safety in Indonesia … to further enhance Indonesia's position as a safe diving destination.”
The book provides step-by-step instructions for dive operators to ensure physical distancing and screen eligible participants, as well as technical procedures in disinfecting scuba equipment.
“I can say that you will not contract coronavirus from others while underwater, although there is no scientific research on it yet,” co-author Daniel Abimanju Carnadie told the conference.
“The problem is when you are on the surface.”
The handbook requires divers to produce a valid coronavirus free certificate and to pass body temperature check. They also must fill in diver medical clearance issued by DAN.
However, Daniel said he wouldn't support complicated procedures for international divers.
“They must first pass medical checkup in their country of origin before coming here and also must pass screening at the airport. Upon arrival at the destination, we don't need to gather them for another checkup, otherwise they will be exposed to transmissions. We instead must avoid creating a crowd,” he said.
North Sulawesi was chosen as the launch venue of the guidelines because it has one of the world's best diving spot, the Bunaken National Marine Park.
The national park was open recently after being shut for five months due to coronavirus scare.
Henry Kaitjily, the head of the provincial tourism department, said that during the reopening Bunaken held an event with a limited number of divers, but a lot more participants had registered.
“We limited the number of divers to 53, but more than 100 people immediately registered themselves, including people from Los Angeles,” he said.