Planned Halloween trick-or-treat outings might have to be abandoned this year by children in large parts of the UK because of local lockdown restrictions over coronavirus, Downing Street has indicated.
Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman said the “rules are clear” in terms of a ban on households mixing in areas affected by local rules, although he stopped short of specifying that this would prevent all trick-or-treat outings.
In other areas not yet affected by such extra limits, any Halloween groups will still have to be small, with children included in the “rule of six” diktat for maximum gathering sizes.
It could potentially limit roaming fancy-dressed gangs to no more than four people, including accompanying adults, in case two people open the door. When this idea was put to the spokesman, he was somewhat unclear, again referring only to the rule of six.
Asked about Halloween, the spokesman said: “The rules are clear in terms of household mixing, and are dependent on whether you’re in a local lockdown area or not. We are clear that everybody needs to follow the rule of six to ensure we can control and try to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Restrictions in many local lockdowns bar more than one household from mixing in a “home or garden”. Asked whether this precluded any trick-or-treat activities in these areas, the spokesman didn’t give a direct answer.
“The guidance is clear in terms of what we’re asking the public to do, making sure they abide by the rule of six, and making sure that they continue to wash their hands and try to socially distance where possible, and use mitigation where that isn’t possible,” he said.
The spokesman was also somewhat opaque when asked whether people who answered the door would be included in an count for the rule of six, saying: “The rules of six does include children, and we are asking everybody to abide by that rule.”
The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed later that trick-or-treating would be banned in areas where household mixing is not allowed, and that even in other places it can “involve handing items from other households, when it may not be easy to wash hands”.
The government faced criticism this week for the complexity of lockdown rules, even after the attempted simplification of the rule of six. About one in four people in the UK, more than 16 million people, are also subject to additional rules, mainly connected to preventing households from mixing.
On Tuesday, Johnson apologised for wrongly saying during a press Q&A after a speech that the rule of six does not apply outdoors in north-east England following the latest local lockdown rules.