Halloween is just around the corner and, normally, with it comes the promise of trick or treating with friends, bags of sweets and costume parties.

But COVID has put an end to all that, with Buckinghamshire Council bosses warning residents not to trick or treat, attend costume or other parties where there are more than six people or substitute your face mask for a Halloween mask.

Mark Shaw, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We’re all in need of a bit of fun this Halloween after a difficult few months, however, now isn’t the time to let our guard down.

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“We need to work together to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus. You can play your part in keeping Bucks safe by only taking part in low-risk activities this year.

“Please remember we cannot hold events such as going trick or treating or Halloween parties.

“Celebrate Halloween safely and help stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

Here is what the council is telling us not to do:

  • Do not go trick or treating where treats are handed out and children go door to door
  • Do not leave bowls of sweets outside for children as this could increase the risk of infection
  • Do not go to crowded costume parties held indoors or any party where there are more than six people
  • Do not substitute your face mask with a Halloween mask as this will not keep you safe

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And here are the top five low-risk activities recommended by council chiefs:

  1. Have a pumpkin trail in your street, town or village. Have fun with the children either carving or drawing pumpkins and place them in your window. Neighbouring children can have fun pumpkin spotting. You could give your children prizes for the number of pumpkins they spot.
  2. Have a virtual pumpkin carving competition with your friends. Carve your pumpkins at home and share the results via Zoom, Google or Skype.
  3. Have fun decorating your house this season. There are lots of templates and crafting ideas online.
  4. Have a Halloween scavenger hunt. Give the children a list of Halloween-themed things to look for on their walk. Spiders or cobwebs for example. You can also do this in your home and hide some treats instead.
  5. Have a Halloween movie night at home. Even for very young children there are some family favourites. Bake some Halloween treats to make it a special occasion.

And, of course, a reminder of the safety guidelines:

  • If you’re hosting an activity it is safer outdoors
  • Keep to the rule of six and remember hands, face, space
  • Remember: the longer you are with other people the higher the risk
  • Maintain physical distance from people you don’t live with. Remember to stay two metres apart.
  • Do not go trick or treating or hold Halloween parties

Joanne Cook, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety and safeguarding manager, is urging residents to celebrate safely and be aware of fire risks with costumes, clothing and soft furnishings.

She said: “Please don’t let Halloween become scary for all the wrong reasons this year. We know things are going to be different due to the COVID-19 control measures and urge you to follow the advice from our police and council colleagues.

“If you are still planning to celebrate please do it safely. Costumes, clothing or even soft furnishings, mixed with a naked flame, can easily be the ingredients for a more terrifying experience than you bargained for.

“Every year, on October 31, children and adults are injured in accidents where candles have set fire to costumes or hair. Plastic capes and bin liners, often used as costumes, are also fire risks.

“It is also important to remember that electrical items, such as decorative lights, old wiring, or overloaded sockets can be a fire risk.”