At least 26 residents of a Belgian retirement home have died since a visit by a volunteer dressed as Saint Nicholas who has since tested positive for Covid-19.

The deaths at the Hemelrijck home in Mol, near Antwerp, have prompted the local municipality to criticise the “completely irresponsible” organisers of the festive visit, although the cause of the infection is not yet certain.

The outbreak followed a visit on 5 December by volunteers dressed as Saint Nicholas and his helper Zwarte Piet, organised by the nursing home’s management. The white-bearded, red-robed figure of Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, brings gifts to Belgians every 6 December.

But within days, residents had displayed symptoms of coronavirus. Twenty six have since died and 85 more have tested positive for coronavirus, along with 40 staff.

In a statement, the municipality of Mols had initially said the volunteer only entered “common areas, such as the sitting areas”.

“He always kept a distance from the residents, stayed nowhere longer than a few minutes and wore a mouth mask. The residents also wore a mouth mask,” the municipality said.

But after photographs of the event emerged revealing that residents had not been wearing masks during the visit, the municipality issued a clarification.

“We have received wrong information from the management,” the second statement said. “We deeply regret that. After looking at several photos, we have to conclude that this goes much further than an error. Rather, it is a completely irresponsible event. We would never have approved this.”

Marc Van Ranst, a prominent virologist, has reported on Twitter that most of the infections came from the same source.

See also  Chief medical officer tells MPs coronavirus plan now at 'mainly delay' stage, not 'mainly contain' - live news

A regional health spokesman, Joris Moonens, said no inquiry had been launched in the absence of a formal complaint. There is no suggestion the volunteer knew he was infected.

A crisis manager has been appointed for Hemelrijck, which housed 169 people before the Covid outbreak, to help staff, residents and relatives cope “in this difficult period”.

Belgium has one of the highest per capita coronavirus death tolls in the world, and more than half of the deceased – 11,066 people – were retirement home residents.

Armonea, the company that runs the residential care home, said its staff had taken the appropriate measures to keep residents safe.



READ SOURCE

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here