At least 26 residents of a Belgian retirement home have died from a visit to a volunteer dressed as Santa Claus, who has since tested positive.. A Flemish health official told AFP on Thursday that it had not yet been confirmed who was the visitor who brought the coronavirus to the Hemelizak home in the mall on December 5.
But 26 residents have died since the visit, and a further 85 people, with 40 employees, tested positive for the coronavirus.
The outbreak erupted a few days after the visit, and leading virologist Mark Van Rains reported on Twitter that most of the infections came from the same source.
Every December 6, a white-bearded, red-robed man from the English-speaking world equivalent of Santa Claus presents gifts to the Belgians.
This year’s festivities, however, have been clouded by the coronavirus epidemic, which has hit Belgium particularly hard in its retirement homes.
No investigation has been launched in the absence of a health formal complaint, regional health spokesman Joris Moons said, and there is no indication that the volunteer knew they were infected.
But an emergency manager has been appointed for Hemelrigak – which housed 169 people before the COVID outbreak – to help employees, residents and relatives cope with “these difficult times”.
Belgium has one of the highest per capita coronavirus death toll in the world and more than half of the dead – 11,066 – were residents of retirement homes.