France finds over 180,000 fake COVID passes; Italy makes arrests in suspected false inoculations
By Constant Méheut and Elisabetta Povoledo
Several countries in Europe are reporting growing instances of fake COVID passes and vaccination certificates — an indication that the vaccine resistance that threatened earlier this year to upend governments’ anti-COVID strategies is far from over.
In France, the authorities said Monday that they had detected over 180,000 fake COVID passes since the measure was introduced this summer. And in Italy on Tuesday, the police in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, arrested a leader of an anti-vaccine movement and a nurse who is accused of accepting payments for pretend vaccinations.
Officials in France said Friday that soon only vaccinated people would be eligible for COVID passes, which are required for entry into restaurants, cafes and other public places. The news of the forgeries highlighted how vaccine resistance remains strong in parts of the country’s population.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said this month that about 400 investigations had been opened into networks of people suspected of providing the fake passes, including some connected to health professionals.
The French news media recently reported several cases of doctors suspected of having sold fake COVID passes. The COVID death of a woman in a Paris regional hospital this month after she showed a fake vaccine certificate has also drawn scrutiny.
In Sicily, the police in Palermo said that a nurse had been paid 100 to 400 euros ($113 to $451) to pretend to inoculate people at a vaccination center so that they could obtain a Green Pass, a health document that is required in Italy to work and to participate in many social activities.
A video aired in the Italian news media showed what the police described as a nurse injecting vaccine doses into a gauze pad and then pretending to inject the contents of empty syringes into people’s arms.
The police arrested Filippo Accetta, a local anti-vaccines campaigner; Anna Maria Lo Brano, a nurse; and another man on accusations of bribery, embezzlement and falsification of an official document.
Eight other people are thought to have been falsely vaccinated at the Palermo hub, according to Francesco Lo Voi, the local prosecutor. He said an initial investigation suggested that other health workers at the center had been unaware of the fraud.