Coronavirus: Elderly fear trick-or-treating kids might spread COVID-19

Grey Power is begging kids not to go trick-or-treating at houses belonging to people they don't know, fearing a potential outbreak of COVID-19. 

Halloween, this Saturday night, is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand. But elderly advocate group Grey Power says it might be better to give trick-or-treating a miss this year.

"I think it's better to avoid social contact if it's not essential - just visit only people you know, that want you to visit," Auckland Grey Power president Gillian Dance told Newshub.

"Make arrangements beforehand... It might be wise to be a bit cautious about whose door you knock on this year."

While there is no evidence of undetected community transmission in the community at the moment, without contact tracing any Halloween-related outbreak of COVID-19 would be hard to stop without a lockdown.

While businesses are required to display QR codes for the Government's COVID Tracer app, data shows few Kiwis are using them, and while households can display them, they aren't required to. 

"It would be almost impossible to have contact tracing," said Dance. "They have no knowledge of who you are, and you have no knowledge of them. I think it's a bit risky." 

The elderly are far more at risk of dying if they get infected with the virus. Whilst children rarely die, they can suffer serious complications and carry the virus and infect others. 

Dance is urging people who don't want to be disturbed, particularly the elderly, to take precautions.

"If I didn't want to be disturbed, I'd probably indicate it at my gate - 'no Halloween visitors' ... I think a little clear message like that, or having the gate shut and locked is a sensible thing, if you have a gate you can shut... or all the lights in the house switched off. If the house is in darkness I don't think visitors will call."

There are concerns overseas too. In Seattle, residents on certain streets will have to apply for permits to host trick-or-treating parties, and if approved, supply their own street barricades. The US has largely uncontrolled spread of the disease.

The Scottish government has flatly said it's not allowed. It's also not allowed in Wales, which is in complete lockdown at the moment. In England it depends on the restrictions where you live, but there is no official government advice. 

The Ministry of Health here has said it has no issues with Halloween taking place, but people who don't want to take part should put out a sign.

University of Otago infectious disease expert Michael Baker told NZME at level 1, trick-or-treating should be okay, and his colleague Nick Wilson said it was "small bixies" compared to the risk of nightclubbing.

Dance said Halloween isn't even relevant in New Zealand, but understands people want to have some fun.

"It is a feast to celebrate the darkness and the winter festival - it's not really relevant in New Zealand because we're actually going from the dark into the light, into the spring and the summer... but it is a lot of fun for some people. They just have to be sensible about it."