Bad Santa: 18 Dead After Santa Infected With Coronavirus Visits Care Home

A super-spreader Santa Claus visited a care home while unknowingly carrying Covid-19 – before 18 residents died of the bug.

Five more residents died over Christmas Eve and Christmas day to bring the death toll to 18 after the visit from the unwitting Covid carrier earlier this month.

Belgian news site VRT carries pictures of the visit from the Santa Claus impersonator, which show him posing with elderly residents while wearing a face covering.

Read Also: When It’s Tough, Take A Deep Breath, Smile And Start Again – Chris Attoh
VRT reports the coronavirus death toll began rising steadily throughout December after the event, aimed at cheering up residents at the Hemelrijck care home in Mol, near the northern Belgian municipality of Antwerp.

Questions are now being asked about Santa’s visit as it is reported 121 residents and 36 staff have been infected with Covid-19 in the localised outbreak.

Tests are being conducted to ascertain the source of the infections following St Nick’s visit.

The Father Christmas impersonator was accompanied by a character called Zwarte Piet – a traditional companion to St Nicholas in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg but one missing from the British tradition.

Zwarte Piet is considered racist as it involves donning black face. The character’s name literally translates as ‘Black Pete’ and there have been widespread calls to ban its use.

Nevertheless, staff at the care home had hoped to boost morale with the visit of St Nick and his controversial companion.

The man playing Santa had not reported any symptoms and felt fit and well before the visit.

While bosses at the care home reportedly revealed the man who played Santa and his companion were in fact therapists who visited residents on previous occassions.

Mayor Wim Caeyers told reporters: “We’re expecting up to ten difficult days. 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.”

Santa was said to have visited “various communal areas such as the sitting room”, authorities said.

They added: “He kept his distance from the residents and wore a face covering. The residents also wore face coverings.”

However, images carried by VRT showed residents without masks. Mr Caeyers told the news site the event was “made with the best intent, but it went wrong”.

He added that it had at first been thought the Santa had followed social distancing rules, before the pictures exposed the truth.

He said: “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. It has been a very black day for the care home,” he added.

A spokesperson for the company which runs the home, Armonea, said: “The team is very shocked by what happened, but that also makes them very motivated to get the virus out again.”

Mol has a population of just 35,000 but a large team of medics have been dispatched to contain the outbreak.

Doubts about the harm caused by what he called the “stupid idea” of Santa’s visit were however raised by top Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst, ofKU Leuven university.

The top boffin doubted St Nick’s visit would have caused quite so many infections and said poor ventilation was more likely to blame.

He told reporters: “Even for a super-spreader, these are too many infections at once.”

Belgium, much like the rest of Europe, suffered a second wave of the pandemic as winter took hold and its health system was almost overwhelmed.

As in the UK, shops were shut, along with pubs and eateries in a partiel re-lockdown of the nation.

The Belgian death toll is 19,089 as of today, with 637,246 cases so far.Photo Credit: Getty

Leave a Reply