In the year of the coronavirus, even Saint Nicholas, the Christmas character who according to tradition brings gifts in much of Europe, has mainly brought infections to a nursing home in Belgium after his visit in early December. Of the 150 residents at the Hemelrijck home in the Flemish city of Mol, 61 have contracted covid-19, to which are added 14 of the staff members who have also been infected.
Saint Nicholas was represented by the son of one of the residents, who disguised himself as the saint to amuse the elderly residents. He had no symptoms of covid at the time of the visit, but tested positive later. Days later, dozens of people from the residence began to test positive for coronavirus, the newspaper collects Free.
The Municipality of Mol (36,000 inhabitants), which indicates it’s a statement that one of the residents has died, in palliative care before becoming infected, accuses the management of the institution of organizing the party in a “totally irresponsible” way, although it does not determine if the outbreak derived from the saint’s visit. All the activities of San Nicolás, a tradition of the first days of December, were prohibited this year in the town. The burgomaster —a position similar to that of mayor— of the city has indicated that those responsible for the institution did not send them precise information about the celebration. “If so, we would have given a negative opinion,” he said. Wim Caeyers .
The residence management defends itself by pointing out that the saint did not visit any particular room, and that he remained in a common area, keeping his distance and without removing his mask. However, a photograph disseminated on social networks and collected by the newspaper The last news shows several residents without a mask.
Those responsible for the institution emphasize that Saint Nicholas, the saint who is inspired by Father Christmas or Santa Claus in other countries, did not give gifts either. Those who did give them were the Father Fouettard O vader geselaar (literally, “father whip”), a sinister character that accompanies Saint Nicholas according to tradition, but those responsible point out that these helpers of the saint were staff of the residence itself disguised in that guise.
The health of residents, the City Council said in a statement, will continue to be closely monitored. “People who have tested negative will be tested every week,” said Caeyens, reports the newspaper The evening. Most only have moderate symptoms and several have the disease without any, although there is a resident who needs an oxygen supply.
“We know that the management organized this with their best intention and tried to respect the measures. But they also need to know how difficult it is with that target group of older people, who also have not had visitors for weeks or who have mild dementia. It would have been better for the saint to walk outside the building or ask a member of the staff to interpret him, “said the mayor.