COVID19 – Updated Advice for Discussion

COVID19 – Updated Advice for Discussion by DZOs, PTOs, Instructors & Coaches

NOTE: Please be aware that the COVID19 situation is changing on a daily basis and the information contained on this page is subject to review. The Council of British Skydiving held a special video meeting on Saturday afternoon 21 March to discuss the current situation, the following is an update from Dr John Carter.

Please also refer to the updated statement from Chief Operating Officer, Tony Butler

21 March 2020

The advice issued on the British Skydiving website over a week ago discussed possible ways of continuing to run a skydiving operation responsibly in the face of an evolving Corona Virus problem, by use of risk reduction strategies.  As predicted at that time, the original advice itself is now out of date.   As the Association’s medical adviser, I am sorry to have to advise cessation of skydiving activities for the time being.  This advice is based both on our responsibilities to the general community and on the reduced capacity of the emergency and health care services to respond to an incident at your drop zone.  If you are considering continuing operations, please read to the end of the page.

The UK Government and the NHS together now advise that anyone at any age (and strongly advise that those aged 70 or over) should avoid social mixing in the community or even having friends or family visit each other.  It is difficult to see how any drop zone could operate without being in conflict with this advice.  The Government is now ordering restaurants, pubs, cafes, clubs, gymnasiums and leisure centres to close.  The exact wording and definitions in this order are not yet known, so it is not clear if parachute centres are subject to advice or have a legal order affecting their activity.

Some drop zones may be tempted to respond to commercial pressure by continuing to operate for the time being.   Many PTOs, mindful of their social responsibilities, have already suspended operations in the UK.   This is going to be a very difficult time for most PTOs and workers in the skydiving industry.  The government advice is being written “on the hoof” in the face of an emerging crisis and so has some inconsistencies and apparent illogicalities.  However, the temptation to pick holes in the advice should not allow us to ignore the important message behind the advice.

It is clear that Covid19 is not a major direct health threat to the majority of young and healthy parachutists.  However, they can transmit the infection as effectively as any other age group and can then help to spread the infection not only to more vulnerable people but to increase the rate of spread in the general population.  At present the death rate amongst the over 80s is in the order of 8%.  Italy is a few weeks ahead of us and is currently reporting over 600 Corona deaths per day.  Our Government’s advice is intended to slow the spread of the infection to allow the NHS to get more equipment and supplies in place and get more staff trained in management of the severe complications of Covid19.  This takes time.  Delaying the spread for even a few weeks will allow much more preparation. 

The pressure on the health care sector is already immense.  “Routine” surgery has been cancelled throughout the NHS for the next few months.  There are staffing problems due to illness and post-contact self isolation.  Ambulances are going out of service, waiting to be decontaminated.  A major London hospital ran out of critical care capacity today.  It is doubtful whether emergency services will have the resources to attend accidents at your DZ in a timely manner and whether injuries can be treated in hospitals in the usual way.  You should assume that the emergency services and the NHS will have a seriously degraded ability to respond to any incidents at your DZ.  Is it reasonable to risk adding to the burdens on the Health Service at present?  Would you want to see yourself, or a friend, as an injured skydiver, waiting for treatment in a service crumbling under pressure and having all intensive care beds full?

Dr John Carter

British Skydiving Medical Adviser

Sources of information and advice about COVID19

The advice about COVID19 is likely to change day by day as the level of infection in the general population changes and as more well evidenced information becomes available.  It is worth rechecking these pages regularly for the most up to date advice.

It is possible that the infection may evolve differently in different parts of the country and so advice may vary not just with time but by region. Further region-specific advice is available from: