18 elderly care-home residents have passed away from Covid-19 days after a super-spreader Santa Claus paid them a visit.
The man, who had dressed up as St Nick to entertain the Belgian residents, was reportedly unaware at the time that he was infected with the deadly disease.
Pictures have shown the Father Christmas posing with the vulnerable residents of Hemelrijck care home in Mol, Belgium, earlier in December.
VRT has reported that the death toll at this residential home has been rising throughout the month following the organised Santa visit.
They reported that five more residents died over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day this year, with the total death toll climbing to 18.
Since the terrifying outbreak, it has been reported that huge numbers of staff and residents have been infected with the virus, with 36 employees of the home, and 121 of the elderly residents contracting coronavirus.
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Tests have been sent out and those involved are still trying to figure out exactly where the infection came from, but many have reportedly raised eyebrows about the decision to allow an infected Santa Claus into the vulnerable home.
The man, who was dressed in the traditional festive costume visited with his assistant.
They both wore masks, it is reported.
Care home staff had organised the event, hoping it would raise their spirits around the care home, and explained Santa and his helper were therapists who also have access to the residents at other times.
Wim Caeyers, the town's Mayor, said: “We’re expecting up to ten difficult days."
He added: "Several laboratories are currently trying to determine the source of the infections, but I have not yet received results.
"This therefore remains uncertain for the moment."
Doctors and paramedics have been mobilised in the town of 35,000 people to help control the outbreak
The authorities in Mol said the Santa had "visited various communal areas such as the sitting room".
"He kept his distance from the residents and wore a face covering. The residents also wore face coverings," the statement added.
But photos obtained by VRT showed residents without masks.
Mr Caeyers told VRT the visit was "made with the best intent, but it went wrong".
"It has been a very black day for the care home,” he said.
Jannes Verheyen, a spokesperson for Armonea, the firm which runs the home, said: "The team is very shocked by what happened, but that also makes them very motivated to get the virus out again."
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