Is Halloween cancelled? Trick-or-treating in the time of Covid-19 and how to stay safe

Like most other occasions this year, Halloween is going to look and feel very different for most people, as high case numbers and heightened restrictions across large parts of the country meaning far fewer people are likely to be out enjoying the festivities this 31 October.

Pumpkins will still be carved, a host of sweet treats will still be eaten and spooky costumes will still be donned, but the main parts of Halloween, like trick-or-treating and costume parties won’t be taking place in the same way as usual.

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Will Halloween events go ahead?

With cases numbers still rising and grave warnings about the second wave potentially being worse than the first, the vast majority of Halloween events won’t be going ahead this year, particularly in areas under Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions.

There may be a handful of events, particularly in areas with lower case numbers, but these will take place in venues which are Covid-secure and will involve heightened measures to keep people safe, as well as enforcing social distancing the rule of six.

What about trick-or-treating?

But Halloween is mostly about children getting dressed up and trick-or-treating (or guising, as it’s known in Scotland) door-to-door.

Many parents have expressed concerns about participating in Halloween festivities in the usual way, due to the obvious potential for the spread of the virus between households when children receive treats from all over their local area.

Officially, trick or treating is only banned for those living in Tier 3 areas, such as South Yorkshire and Merseyside, but in many other areas it is still being advised against.

In the rest of the country, children are legally allowed to trick or treat so long as they follow the local restrictions.

Should it be banned?

Any groups who do opt to don costumes and go door-to-door will still be subject to the rule of six restrictions. While in England this means no more than six people can gather including children, anyone under 12 is not affected by the rule of six in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

In those areas where trick-or-treating can legally go ahead, a number of police forces have said they will be out on patrol looking for breaches of the rule of six, and some forces have released advice on how best to trick-or-treat safely.

These tips include:

  • Trick or treaters must make sure that face coverings are worn.Groups should be no larger than six - and any groups of six who may meet indoors must be in the same bubble.
  • If answering the door to trick-or-treaters, remember to obey social distancing rules.
  • If you plan to trick or treat with someone from outside of your bubble you must follow the guidance on social distancing.
  • Remember to wash hands regularly, in between houses and interactions if possible.
  • Avoid houses where there are people shielding and where there are vulnerable people (some homes will also display 'No trick or treat' posters so watch out for these).
  • If you are at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19, remain within your household.
  • Avoid communal buckets of sweets.

What about the “No trick-or-treat” posters?

As many people already know, there is usually no real way to obviously opt your house out of the festivities, which has caused concern for many who are shielding and particularly vulnerable that might be inadvertently put at risk, even if they don’t answer the door.

Many police forces have come up with a solution to this, and are providing posters which can be downloaded and put on display outside your home, to signal that you’re not taking part in the festivities.

Here’s a link to the posters that West Yorkshire Police have made available, though many police forces over the country have launched similar initiatives.

However, some experts have said that, if people are going to take part safely, Halloween could be a welcome bit of fun and provide some engagement for people who are struggling with loneliness.

Speaking to East Anglian Daily Times, Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said, “We hope everybody follows the government guidelines and is aware of local restrictions. If visiting doorsteps, be sure to step back after knocking, so you are around two metres away from the person when they answer the door and make sure everybody handwashes before and after eating and handling treats.

“A large number of older people are feeling lonely right now and we all need to remember that loneliness affects your health, your wellbeing and the way you see yourself - it can make you feel invisible and forgotten, so it is more important than ever for us all to be vigilant and look out for older neighbours, relatives and friends to make sure they’re OK.”

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, The Yorkshire Post.