Police officers in the Republic of Cyprus have been instructed to examine Safe Pass documents more closely if they suspect a document might be fake, while violators could face up to three years in prison.
According to police, officers who have even a slight suspicion that a citizen may be presenting a fake Safe Pass document for inspection have been told to follow procedures to ascertain authenticity.
Fake Passes, a term used to described fraudulent Safe Pass documents during the pandemic, have been on the rise in Cyprus and other countries as government measures made it more difficult for unvaccinated persons to hold onto their jobs or carry out normal activities.
In Cyprus, going to the supermarket or other places where more than ten people congregate at any time, including clinics and senior homes and most bakeries, requires the use of a Safe Pass, a physical proof for teenagers and adults to show they are either vaccinated with at least one dose three weeks prior, have tested negative for the coronavirus during a rapid or PCR test conducted in the last 72 hours, or officially cleared by state authorities no more than six months since the last time they tested positive for coronavirus.
'Any person forging a negative test result could end up facing a prison sentence up to three years,' the police spokesperson said
Many employees have been asked to use Safe Pass documents in order to get to work with some reports suggesting some companies favored vaccinations over testing.
Police spokesperson Christos Andreou said after the Cabinet’s decision to toughen Safe Pass rules, a number of citizens have been seeking fake passes, including workers according to Philenews.
“In the last few days, there were three citations against citizens who presented fake Safe Pass documents, and all three of them were company employees,” Andreou said.
The government argues that strict measures are necessary to avoid lockdowns and keep risks of coronavirus spread low, while health officials have also admitted that another goal was to get as many people vaccinated as possible.
But critics say some Safe Pass restrictions are too strict, arguing that many people ineligible for a recovery document if they had the bug more than six months ago end up having to get tested frequently at their own expense just to be allowed to visit restricted areas.
At least five medical doctors are also being investigated for document forgery and falsifying state records, after allegations emerged that physicians have been giving fake vaccination certificates to patients.
Previous reports suggested many patients were switching doctors within the GESY network, the state’s healthcare insurance scheme, in an effort to “shop around” for doctors who could accommodate their requests, such as seeking medical proof for not wearing a face mask or getting a vaccine exemption.
Accusations have since included cases where doctors were alleged to have provided vaccination certificates to patients who are believed not to have been given the actual shots.
While it is up to medical doctors to recommend vaccines to their patients or discourage them from getting vaccinated, it is illegal to forge official documents or falsify state records.
“These offenses are very serious and all of us need to understand that such actions place a higher risk on public health,” Andreou said.
Reports have also pointed to many cases of citizens modifying text messages on their phones to make them appear as recent negative rapid test results in order to fool door greeters in several restricted venues.
“Any person forging a negative test result could end up facing a prison sentence up to three years,” the police spokesperson said.