18 Dead After Santa Who Visited Care Home Tests Positive For Covid
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A care home in Belgium lost 18 residents to Covid-19 after a visit from a Santa Claus in early December who later tested positive for Covid-19.
The man who was wearing fancy dress was seen posing with elderly residents in December. He later fell ill and tested positive for the disease.
Since then, the death toll at the Hemelrijck care home in Mol, Belgium, has risen throughout the month.
As reported by VRT, five more residents died on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, bringing the death toll to a shocking 18.
Overall, 121 residents and 36 members of staff have been infected.
Tests were carried out in labs and early findings have established that most of the infections came from a single source. It is still uncertain whether the man dressed as Santa was the original source of the infections.
Staff in the care home had wanted to boost morale within the centre, and the Santa didn't feel unwell before he visited.
Mayor Wim Caeyers described the man dressed as Santa as 'the son of a resident' and 'a trusted person for the residential care centre'.
He said: "We're expecting up to ten difficult days.
"It is a very great mental strain to bear for the man that played St Nicholas, as well as for the organisers and staff."
He added: "Several laboratories are currently trying to determine the source of the infections, but I have not yet received results.
"This therefore remains uncertain for the moment."
Authorities in Mol said the Santa had been into various areas, including the sitting room.
The statement added: "He kept his distance from the residents and wore a face covering. The residents also wore face coverings."
The mayor said at first it was thought the man had followed social distancing rules.
He added: "Initially they said that the rules had been followed, but then straight away you receive photos from the families of residents where you can see that this wasn't the case."
Jannes Verheyen, a spokesperson for Armonea, the firm which runs the home, said: "The team is very shocked by what happened, but that also makes them very motivated to get the virus out again."
But one of the country's top virologists, Marc Van Ranst, said he doesn't think the Santa could have caused such a large number of infections.
Although he admitted the visit was a 'stupid idea', he said it was more likely to be down to poor ventilation.
He said: "Even for a super-spreader, these are too many infections at once."