Ontario health officials are recommending against trick or treating door-to-door this Halloween if you live in Toronto, Ottawa, Peel or York Region.

According to guidance released Monday morning, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says the risk of transmission in those areas is too great.

“Given the high transmission of COVID-19 in the modified Stage 2 public health unit regions of Ottawa, Peel, Toronto and York Region, traditional door-to-door trick or treating is not recommended and people should consider alternative ways to celebrate,” Williams said.

Officials suggested Halloween in those areas be kept to one’s own household, with activities such as an indoor candy hunt, pumpkin carving, movie night or decorating a front lawn.

“We’re trying to make it as safe and simple as possible, my friends, we all know this isn’t going to be a regular Halloween,” Premier Doug Ford said on Monday. “We just can’t have hundreds of kids showing up at your door if you live in a hotspot, especially in an apartment building.”

Trick or treat

Outside of Toronto, Peel, Ottawa and York, Williams said trick-or-treating should only go outside with members of their own household and only collect candy given to them outdoors.

Those handing out candy should use tongs or other implements to hand it out rather than touching it.

In addition, everyone out for Halloween in regions that allow it should wear a mask at all times.

Those handling candy should use hand sanitizer or wash their hands often.

Ontario reported 704 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, with 566 of them in the four regions put back into Stage 2 by the Ford government.

Epidemiologist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the decision to cancel Halloween in Ontario's two largest cities "doesn't sit right" with him, and more should have been done to adapt the activity to make it safe.

Bogoch's colleague, fellow epidemiologist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy agreed.

Williams and Ford both said their guidance on Halloween in major areas experiencing COVID-19 surges was not meant as punishment, but they could not in good conscience advise parents and kids to go out and collect candy.

“It’s not based on fear, it’s not based on cabinet, it’s based on Dr. Williams and not just him but the whole team.”

Ford said the doctors advising him on the health command table all agreed, as did the chief medical officers of health in all four COVID-19 hotspots.

“They aren’t all going to agree but I could probably line up hundreds or even thousands (of doctors) that agree,” Ford said of the decision.

Williams said he did not see any specific guidance he could come up with that would keep parents and kids safe if they went out trick or treating in areas with high rates of transmission.

“I still remember what it was like, (the kids) go around in groups and every time they finish they get together in a huddle, there’s a lot of chatter and close contact, and with all that enthusiasm it’s really hard to control that.”