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26 dead from covid-19 after Saint-Nicolas passed through a retirement home in Belgium

Twenty-six residents of a retirement home in Belgium have died of covid-19, after the passage of a man disguised as Saint-Nicolas, subsequently tested positive, AFP learned Thursday from the Flemish health authorities and establishment. A spokesperson for the Flemish Agency for Care and Health, Joris Moonens, said there was “no certainty” that the man disguised as Saint Nicholas was the source of the infection.

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The Hemelrijck retirement home in Mol in the province of Antwerp, which at the beginning of the month accommodated 169 residents, currently has 85 positive cases for covid-19 among the residents and 40 on the staff side, said an employee of this. establishment on condition of anonymity. The focus of infection emerged a few days after the December 5 visit by the man dressed as Saint Nicholas, who tested positive after his visit. This visit was singled out in the press by the municipal and regional authorities.

An open investigation

Virologist Marc Van Ranst, one of the Belgian experts who stood out during the pandemic, indicated on December 25 that an overwhelming majority of people infected in the retirement home, more than 90%, had been ” by the same strain of the virus ”. An investigation is planned to try to trace the origin of the contamination, said the spokesperson for the Flemish agency. A “crisis manager” will be appointed to support the management of the establishment “in this difficult period”, in particular to take measures to support the staff and better communicate with the families of residents, he added.

The “nursing and care homes” have been very hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Belgium: it killed a total of 11,066 residents of these establishments, or 57.3% of the total number of deaths linked to the covid-19 in the country.

The residents and staff of these retirement homes are the priority audiences for the vaccination, which began at the start of the week but is due to continue on a larger scale from January 5. Amnesty International Belgium denounced in November in a vitriolic report the “abandonment” of Belgian retirement homes by the public authorities during the pandemic.

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