Amnesty International said Belgium authorities “abandoned” thousands of elderly people who died in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic following an investigation published Monday that described the situation as “human rights violations.”
One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 531,000 confirmed virus cases and more than 14,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus. During the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the European nation of 11.5 million people recorded a majority of its COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes.
Between March and October, Amnesty International said “a staggering” 61.3% of all COVID-19 deaths in Belgium took place in nursing homes. The group said authorities weren’t quick enough in implementing measures to protect nursing home residents and staff during this period, failing to protect their human rights.
Amnesty International said one of the reasons so many people died in homes is because infected residents were not transferred to hospitals to receive treatment.
Belgium had one of the highest death rates worldwide during the first wave. But while nursing home staff was overwhelmed, the country’s hospitals weathered the crisis, as their intensive care units never reached their 2,000-bed capacity.