75 infected with COVID-19 after Santa visits Belgian care home
At least 75 people have gotten infected with COVID-19 and one has died at a Belgian care home after a man dressed as Santa Claus visited the facility. After the visit, the man had tested positive for the viral disease. The municipality of Mol in Belgium's Flanders region said in a statement on Saturday that the care home committed an "error in judgment."
61 residents, 14 staff among those who tested positive
Every December 6, Belgians rush to see if St. Nicholas, or Sinterklass, has left them presents. Since the visit by the man dressed as Santa Claus, 61 residents and 14 staff members at the Hemelrijck home in Mol have tested positive for COVID-19. The man, who is reported to be the son of a resident, was among the first to have tested positive.
One resident dead; 'vast majority' not showing symptoms
One resident, who was already receiving palliative care, has died. Another with severe symptoms is receiving oxygen therapy at the care home, the municipality said. The "vast majority" of those infected are not showing symptoms and have been doing well, it added.
'In-depth research' needed to ascertain if Santa's visit triggered outbreak
The municipality said the man "was not feeling sick at the time of the visit" and the "activity was not cleared beforehand with the crisis center, otherwise, negative advice would have been given." It said "in-depth scientific research" would be needed to say whether the outbreak was triggered by the Santa's visit. The municipality also assured that Santa maintained his distance during the visit.
Santa only visited common areas, maintained distance: Municipality
The municipality said, "Contrary to reports in the media, St. Nicholas did not visit every room. The management reassures us that the saint only visited common areas, including the seating areas." It said, "The saint maintained distance at all times from the residents, and didn't remain in any area longer than a few minutes. The saint did not hand out presents."
Over six lakh infected, 18,000 dead in Belgium
So far, Belgium has reported over six lakh coronavirus infections and 18,000 deaths. The outbreak had peaked in October-end when the situation had turned so grave that some hospitals in Liège, Belgium's third-largest city, had asked asymptomatic infected health workers to continue working.