Care home Covid outbreak: 75 people infected after ‘superspreader’ Father Christmas visit
Angela Merkel urges Germans to follow coronavirus guidelines
In a bid to cheer up the 150 residents of the Hemelrijck care home in Mol, Beligum, Sinterklaas and his helpers known as Zwarte Piet (‘Black Pete’) visited the home to spread some festive joy.
But after their visit, 61 elderly residents and another 14 staff tested positive for the deadly virus.
At least one of the residents has been treated with oxygen.
Three days after their visit, Father Christmas fell ill and tested positive for the virus.
This prompted health officials to start testing at the care home.
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Photos from the visit showed not all the residents were wearing face masks and Santa and his helpers posed with them for pictures.
Mayor of Mol, Wim Caeyers, said: “It has been a very black day for the care home.
“It is a very great mental strain to bear for the man that played St Nicholas, as well as for the organisers and the staff.
“Initially [the care home] 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.”
Mr Caeyers and his administration lashed out at the care home calling it a “totally irresponsible organisation”.
He said it will be “all hands of deck” to get the virus under control.
A spokesperson for Armonea, the firm which manages the home, said: “The team is very shocked by what happened, but that also makes them very motivated to get the virus out again.”
Despite the alarming number of positive cases, Marc Van Rants, of the KU Leuven university, doubts Santa could have caused so many infections.
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He said: “Even for a super-spreader, these are too many infections at once.”
Mr Rants argued poor ventilation is more likely to have caused the cases and CO2 measures should be taken by local health officials.
But he also attacked the decision to invite Santa to visit calling it a “stupid idea”.
During the pandemic, Belgium has the worst coronavirus deaths per million of its population in the world.
On Saturday, the number of daily infections rose by 2,762 and 4,978 on Sunday.
Europe is currently facing another crisis as countries across the continent battle the second wave of the virus.
Over the weekend, Italy surpassed the UK record of the highest death toll in Europe.
While their latest death figures was one of its lowest, the additional 484 pushed the overall figure to 64,520.
In the UK, the number currently stands at 64,267.
In Germany, Angela Merkel announced all non-essential shops and schools will have to close until at least January 10.
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