Wednesday, April 14

In Belgium, 26 dead after the passage of Saint-Nicolas in an nursing home

An Ehpad in Clamart (illustrative image). – LOUISE MERESSE/DICOM/SIPA

Following the passage of a man disguised as Saint-Nicolas, who was unaware of being infected, twenty-six residents of a retirement home in Belgium died of Covid-19, announced the Flemish health authorities and the establishment, this Thursday.

The Hemelrijck retirement home, in
Mol in the province of Antwerp, which welcomed 169 residents at the start of the month, currently has 85 positive Covid-19 cases among residents and 40 on the staff side, said an employee of the retirement home on condition of anonymity.

No certainty that the contamination comes from “Saint-Nicolas”

The focus of infection appeared a few days after the visit on December 5 of Saint-Nicolas, who tested positive for Covid-19 after his visit. Virologist Marc Van Ranst, one of the Belgian experts who stood out during the pandemic, said on December 25 that the majority of people infected in the retirement home had been “by the same source”.

A spokesperson for the Flemish Agency for Care and Health, Joris Moonens, said there was, however, “no certainty” that Saint Nicholas was the source of the infection. No complaint has yet been received by this agency, and no investigation carried out.

Abandoned Belgian retirement homes

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, said the spokesperson for the Flemish agency. 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 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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