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Belgian retirement home records 26 COVID-19 deaths after visiting Santa tests positive

Belgian retirement home records 26 COVID-19 deaths after visiting Santa tests positive
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Twenty-six residents in a Belgian retirement home died from coronavirus following a visit from a volunteer Saint Nicholas who tested positive for the virus.

The visitor made his trip to the Hemelrijck home in Mol, Belgium, earlier this month. Within a few days of the visit, several residents began to show COVID-19 symptoms.

Eighty-five total residents and 40 staff members tested positive for the virus, and 26 died from the disease, The Guardian reported.

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Local community members criticized those who planned the event, calling them “completely irresponsible," according to the news outlet.

The municipality of Mols initially said the volunteer only entered common areas within the facility and wore a mask, keeping his distance from residents.

However photos later circulated revealing that many residents did not wear face masks to protect themselves, the Guardian reported.

“We have received wrong information from the management,” local officials said in a statement, according to the news source. “We deeply regret that. After looking at several photos, we have to conclude that this goes much further than an error. Rather, it is a completely irresponsible event. We would never have approved this.”

The nursing home has now implemented a crisis manager to help those in the facility further cope during this time. A total of 169 lived in the residence prior to the outbreak, according to the Guardian.

Belgium has suffered one of Europe's highest rates of coronavirus infection. The country has seen more than 644,200 cases and reported a total of 19,441 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the World Health Organization.

Nearly 11,066 retirement home residents in the country have died from the virus, The Guardian reported.