Santa Claus
Santa ClausISTOCK

At least 26 nursing home residents in the Belgian city of Mol have died of the coronavirus in recent days after a volunteer dressed as Santa paid a visit earlier this month to hand out gifts ahead of the annual "Santa Claus Day."

The visit was organized by the nursing home management, who wanted to surprise the elderly tenants by having Santa visit, bringing along gifts and cheer to the facility. The endeavor met a tragic end, however, when 26 of the tenants ended up dying after contracting the virus. Another 85 were infected with some hospitalized in critical condition.

40 nursing home staff also caught COVID-19 after Santa came to visit. The town's municipality issued a statement saying that "the Santa Claus volunteer only stayed in open areas such as seating spaces, maintained social distancing directives, did not remain inside the nursing home for more than a few minutes and wore a face mask at all times."

After security camera images revealed elderly tenants not wearing face masks during Santa's visit, the municipality issued another statement, this time apologizing for the false information provided. "We received incorrect information from the management. We are very sorry [for misleading the public]. After seeing pictures of the visit we have concluded this was far more than just an accident. This was a reckless turn of events. [Had we known in advance], We would never have allowed for it to have taken place."

The managing company responsible for running the nursing home, however, claimed it had "taken all available precautions to facilitate the good health of our residents."