The day was reduced and observed cautiously across the country last year, but not completely canceled.
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As kids prepare to go door-to-door and adults gather for Halloween-themed parties, experts say the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower this time around in due to wider vaccination coverage. But care is needed to avoid a spike in cases.
“The risks are different this year as most people are vaccinated and so we have a much lower risk for a lot of older people who might have been worried last year about opening their homes to children,” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at CHU Sainte-Justine in Montreal.
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Kakkar said she did not expect an increase in pediatric cases, but infections in adults could increase in the weeks following the spooky weekend due to planned indoor gatherings.
“The ideal is to have masks and to limit the number of people and to really avoid the big Halloween parties because we are not yet at this stage where we can do it without any restrictions”, she declared.
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Costume masks should not replace surgical masks, Kakkar said, but double masking should also be avoided because it can make breathing difficult. Incorporating the face mask into your costume is the way to go, she said.
Kakkar also cautioned against painting or drawing on the masks to make them more colorful as this can release toxins and fumes that can be dangerous if inhaled.
Ventilation and distancing will also be essential at indoor parties, especially for the unvaccinated, the elderly and the immunocompromised, said Dr Horacio Bach, infectious disease expert at the University of Colombia. -British.
How to safely cheat or treat
Just like last year, many Canadians are reluctant to open their doors to trick-or-treaters.
According to a new poll conducted this week by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, 56% of respondents said they would not hand out candy on Halloween “given the current pandemic.”
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That same poll also showed that 93 percent of Canadians whose children were treated last year intend to have them go on a candy hunt again this Sunday.
Trick-or-treat is relatively safe due to the outdoor environment, where the risk of transmission is low due to greater ventilation, experts say.
“Children going from house to house and in small groups and not in large gatherings – it’s a relatively safe activity,” Kakkar said.
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However, she advised limiting the length of physical interactions, keeping masks on, and not entering homes – no matter how cool or extravagant the Halloween decorations are.
“Keep it outside as much as possible,” she said.
And, if you’re concerned about contact with unvaccinated children, Kakkar suggested leaving the candy outside to avoid exposure.
During collection, children should keep hand sanitizer with them and disinfect or wash their hands before eating, Bach said. As always, parents should make sure the candy wrapper is intact and throw it away if it’s already opened.
Because the spread of COVID-19 from surfaces is minimal, disinfection of packaging is not necessary, said Kakkar and Bach.
What the provinces are saying
In the midst of a fourth wave of COVID-19 driven by the Delta variant, provinces have set different security measures for Halloween.
In Ontario, the provincial government has urged people to keep the stuff or treat interactions brief and out-of-the-box as much as possible. Children should also refrain from singing, shouting and crowding doors.
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“Get creative and make the face cover part of your costume,” the province said on its website.
The pandemic has forced several Toronto haunted houses, including Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror and Screemers, to remain closed this past Halloween, however, both are welcoming visitors this year with security protocols in place. Proof of vaccination is not required.
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Last year, people used candy chutes, slides and tongs to deliver treats to children standing further back than usual.
British Columbia health worker Dr Bonnie Henry said she wanted to see more of them this year because children between the ages of five and 11 will not be vaccinated until after Halloween.
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In Alberta, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw stressed that this is not the year of the big Halloween parties and reiterated the limits of social gatherings in place.
Indoor social gatherings in private households are limited to 10 people from two households and all eligible people must be vaccinated. Indoor gatherings are not allowed for unvaccinated people.
In Quebec, children are asked not to shout “candy or spell” when they go door to door to buy candy and to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on hand this Halloween.
The province is also asking adults to hand out candy in individual bags and adhere to the 10-person gathering limit when it comes to parties.
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In Saskatchewan, health officials are urging residents of high transmission areas to avoid indoor Halloween gatherings of any kind, especially for the unvaccinated.
“We also urge you to consider alternatives to trick-or-treat,” said Dr. Cory Neudorf, acting medical officer of health for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, in a statement.
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Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, residents are encouraged to offer food from pre-served individual portions or designate a single person to serve food and drink during the festivities.
The provincial government has advised against ringing the doorbell during trick-or-treating, saying children should knock on doors instead. He also said not to take treats in situations where everyone has to reach a single container.
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– With files from The Canadian Press