‘Bad Santa’ infects 75 people on visit to Belgian care home

‘Bad Santa’ infects 75 people on visit to Belgian care home

Brussels: More than 60 residents at a care home tested positive for coronavirus after a Christmas visit from a "super-spreader" dressed as St Nicholas.

St Nicholas is a figure similar to Santa Claus and is a much-loved festive fixture in Belgium, where he hands out gifts to children on December 5.

At least 75 people, 61 of them residents and 14 staff, were infected by the man, who is the son of one of the residents and volunteers at the care home in Mol, near Antwerp.

A Santa in Europe.Credit:AP

Further infections are feared to be inevitable and one resident has already been put on oxygen.

The man fell ill and tested positive for COVID-19 three days after the visit, which led to residents getting tested. He was said to be distraught after learning that he was responsible for the wave of infections in local media reports.

Photos from the visit on social media showed that although he wore a mask as part of his outfit, not all of the residents did. They also show that social distancing rules did not appear to be respected.

Wim Caeyers, the mayor of Mol, 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." He said the home was "totally irresponsible" after initially claiming that all restrictions were observed.

"Now [we must] wait to see how great the devastation is," Cathy Berx, the Antwerp governor, told the Gazet van Antwerpen newspaper. "Previously, there was no problem with coronavirus infections in the nursing home, so there is no doubt that the visit of the saint caused the infections. "

A spokesman 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."

However, one of Belgium's leading virologists doubted the man could be responsible for so many cases.

"Even for a super-spreader, these are too many at once," said Marc Van Ranst of the Rega Institute for Medical Research.

Telegraph, London

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