John Swinney: ‘Don’t take kids out guising as they could be given bags of sweeties carrying coronavirus'

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister has repeated calls for families to celebrate Halloween in their own homes and leave trick-or-treating until next year, warning that children could be handed bags of sweeties carrying coronavirus on them.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Swinney said: “We are advising parents not to engage in guising with their children – and that means not going door-to-door.

“While I appreciate that's disappointing advice, I've got to be realistic with the situation we've got. The interaction of humans is how the virus spreads and that can also be spread by the touching of items, like bags of sweeties.

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So quite conceivably, without anybody knowing that they were doing any harm to anybody else, somebody could give a child an assembled bag of sweeties – my son went out guising last year and from our very kind neighbours he got little bags of sweeties – those bags could be the purveyors of coronavirus.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

“I don't want to see that happening in our society, and that's why we're giving the advice that we're giving to people.

“That doesn't mean Halloween can't happen. There can be all the dressing up that people want to do. There can be Halloween experiences. But what we can't do is enable children to go round doors, because it would be an opportunity to spread the virus.”

Mr Swinney, who is Scotland's Education Secretary, also told Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson that university students may not be allowed to return home over Christmas if coronavirus is not under control, Scotland’s Education Secretary has warned.

Mr Swinney said there is a “realistic possibility” they could be asked to stay in halls or other university accommodation at Christmas but stressed the Scottish Government “want to avoid that at all possible cost”.

Phased returns home and back to university are being considered by the UK’s governments as part of an attempt to limit further infections by the movement of “substantial” numbers of people around the country.

The Deputy First Minister said the return of students at Christmas “without a doubt” depends on the coronavirus infection rate being reduced.

Asked if that meant students could be forced to remain in halls of residence, he said: “We want to avoid that at all possible cost because we want students to return home.

“But I have to be realistic that, if we have a situation where the virus has not been controlled, then we will have to look at other scenarios and other plans.”

Mr Swinney added: “There is a lot of thinking and work going on within the Scottish Government, with Universities Scotland, the institutions, with the National Union of Students, and also with the governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to try to make sure this can be undertaken as safely as possible.

“But there obviously is a risk that if the virus is not contained, then we may not be able to support the return of students to their homes.

“We want to avoid that but it is a realistic possibility.”

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