Once a faraway curiosity vicariously experienced via Hollywood films, over the past two decades Halloween has become increasingly popular in Australia.
This year’s All Hallows Eve occurs on a weekend for the first time in five years, and many young Australians will be in search of scary thrills and trick-or-treat lollies.
The spanner in the spider web is that coronavirus restrictions mean some activities could incur a fine that would frighten even the spookiest gaggle of ghosts.
Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of what’s on and off for Halloween 2020:
NSW: Trick or treating is OK, but there are some caveats
Providing the level of community transmission remains low, NSW Health said it was “supportive” of Halloween festivities going ahead, but “with some caveats”, as limits on gatherings across the state are being increased to 30 people.
To keep Halloween celebrations outdoors, it should be a front-yard rather than a front-door event.
For trick-or-treat outings, a supervising adult is advised to join children from the same household, instead of having groups of children moving about together.
“Keep it local and put effort into decorating the front yard, rather than focusing on well-known ‘treat streets’,” a NSW Health spokesperson said.
“Provide closed packaging for treats and instead of communal lolly bowls, consider other ways of distributing treats, like strewn along the front fence.
“And have hand sanitiser at the front gate.”
Maintaining a 1.5-metre distance between people from different households is recommended and children “should not share costume face masks”.
Regional Victoria is in luck, but Melbourne is not
Despite much-improved coronavirus numbers, Halloween might have come just a little too early for Australia’s second most-populous state this year.
While Premier Dan Andrews has eased some restrictions across Melbourne, it is unlikely the city will be allowed to partake in any form of Halloween this year.
“We’ll have more to say on this closer to the time, but as current restrictions stand, trick-or-treating would not be allowed in metropolitan Melbourne,” a Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) spokesperson said.
The news is better for Victorians living outside Greater Melbourne.
“Halloween could take place in regional Victoria, but with COVID-safe guidelines,” the DHSS spokesperson said.
A final decision on Halloween in Victoria is likely to be made next week.
As you were, Queensland
Since October 16, up to 40 people have been allowed to gather in homes or public places across the state, which has detected virtually no community transmission of COVID-19 for several weeks.
While Halloween celebrations can go ahead almost as normal, Queensland Health is urging revellers to exercise caution.
“We’d like to remind all the monsters, ghouls and ghosties out there to stay up to date with the health directions that are in place on October 31,” a Queensland Health spokesperson said.
“Stay physically distanced and wash your hands, claws, tentacles, and so on – frequently and well.”
Queensland Health recommends handing out individually packaged sweets, while those preparing snacks or handing them out should use hand sanitiser.
Halloween is a little different in South Australia
An SA Health spokesperson admitted this Halloween “might be a little bit different than usual”.
There are no limits on outdoor gatherings in the state, and private residences may host up to 50 people.
SA Health reminded those celebrating to maintain a 1.5m distance from those in different groups, while urging anyone with even the mildest symptoms to stay at home.
“Remember to wear your scariest costume, but please do not go out if you are unwell,” the spokesperson said.
“Trick or treating can be COVID-safe while still being lots of fun.”
Western Australia has no specific restrictions
WA continues to ease its coronavirus restrictions and could lift most rules on Saturday, when the state is due to move to Phase 5 of its COVID-19 road map.
The state’s Department of Health said it had “no specific restrictions regarding Halloween celebrations”.
But a spokesperson added that keeping a 1.5-metre distance from others, washing hands often and staying home if sick should be observed for anyone taking part.
“This advice applies to any community activities, such as Halloween celebrations, including trick or treating or children’s parties,” the spokesperson said.
The Northern Territory wants you to ‘keep it local’
The Territory has seen a total of just 33 coronavirus cases with no deaths – fewer than any other jurisdiction in the country.
Even so, NT Health said it was okay for Territorians to opt out of Halloween on health grounds if they felt vulnerable.
“You may wish to avoid people knocking on your door by putting up a sign that says, ‘We are home, but due to COVID-19, we are not participating in Halloween’,” a NT Health spokesperson said.
Even with no limits on home visits, NT Health urged residents to “keep it local to your street or suburb”.
It also recommended using a disposable bag to collect treats and “disposing of it appropriately afterwards”.
Tasmania is discouraging trick or treating
Even though up to 20 people can now visit Tasmanian homes due to the state’s strong coronavirus response, authorities are discouraging Halloween activities this year.
But they have stopped short of forbidding festivities.
They said it was risky to have “unnecessary close contact with many unfamiliar people whose current health you don’t know”.
Instead, Tasmania Public Health Services are recommending more intimate gatherings to celebrate Halloween.
“As an alternative to knocking on the doors of people you are unfamiliar with, it would be a better to organise such activities with a limited number of healthy friends or family known to you,” a spokesperson said.
Avoid crowds and strangers in the ACT
There are no current restrictions to stop trick or treating in the ACT, with outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people allowed.
But ACT authorities have advised families to avoid visiting homes packed with visitors.
“If a particular house looks busy, move onto the next house, or come back later,” an ACT Government spokesperson said in a media release.
Canberrans have been reminded to observe the best practices of social distancing and hand hygiene, and to take personal responsibility for their children’s safety in addition to their own.
“Despite the encouraging position of the ACT, the situation could change quickly, both in the ACT and in our neighbouring jurisdictions before Halloween,” the spokesperson said.