Belgian St. Nick party for elderly leads to 27 virus deaths

BRUSSELS – Authorities in Belgium say a 27th elderly person died of a spreading St Nick party in a coronavirus outbreak in a nursing home last month, but they hope the situation is now under control.

The Hemelrijck House in the northern Belgian town of Mol organized a visit on December 4th for a troupe that played the beloved saint who usually spreads joy and gifts. However, the city and the families of some of the deceased have complained that the nursing home should never have organized the party if restrictive measures were taken across the country to contain the pandemic.

The Mol community said “the event was not coordinated with the crisis cell” and if they had heard about it beforehand they would have stopped it.

The community said on New Year’s Eve that a 27th person had died.

In the Hemelrijck nursing home, no one was available for comment on Friday. At the last count, the house had 88 infections among residents and 42 among employees.

Lily Lenaerts, whose sister Angele, 85, was the first to die after the outbreak, is upset about how the nursing home treats family members.

“I still haven’t received a condolence card (from the nursing home) and have been visiting for four years,” she told Het Laatste Nieuws.

Saint Nicholas is the traditional December 6th gift giving day and is much more important for children in Belgium than Santa Claus on December 25th, which is mainly a family gathering.

It was originally believed that one of the actors in the St. Nick group was the cause of the outbreak, but subsequent research could not be fully conclusive.

Respected Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst said it could “not be said with 100% certainty that he introduced it to the nursing home”. He added, “The man was a volunteer at the nursing home and theoretically could have been infected by a resident.” or an employee. “

The city said the outbreak has finally stabilized.

“The residents’ health has improved significantly,” the city said in a statement.

Belgium, a nation of 11.5 million people, was hit hard by the pandemic. So far 19,528 viruses have been killed, many of them in nursing homes.

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