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26 May, 2024
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Safe pass arrest sheds light on giant loophole

Cops check ID cards of suspicious persons but no data on how many slip through


A man at a local store in Limassol was arrested on Wednesday after police officers who asked to inspect his Safe Pass determined the document did not match his ID card, but not everyone is on the same page regarding secondary inspections at the door.

Police said officers approached a 27-year-old male at a local store in Limassol on Wednesday evening around 7:20pm and asked to inspect his personal documents. The man, described as a foreign national, initially presented a digital safe pass on his mobile phone showing full vaccination and a photo ID with an alien registration number.

But according to police, officers became suspicious after checking the details presented and asking him various questions.

“The man made several inconsistent statements and eventually he presented real information about his identity,” a police report said.

Local businesses are resisting to conduct secondary inspections with door greeters only using a CovScan application to scan a QR code to verify the validity of a document

It later turned out that the man did not have Safe Pass documents of his own, with police saying he had asked a younger man who was fully vaccinated to send him his valid health document. Police said the 27-year-old was arrested on the spot on misdemeanor charges and criminal impersonation, while the 21-year-old male holder of the Safe Pass in question was also arrested in the early hours around 2am.

Knews has learned that Safe Pass inspections at the entrance of business establishments with restricted access do not typically involve asking for identification documents, with local businesses resisting to conduct secondary inspections and door greeters only using a CovScan application to scan a QR code to verify the validity of a document.

Innovation Deputy Minister Kyriacos Kokkinos has told Knews that the application does not check whether the QR code belongs to the person presenting the document, adding that it is up to door greeters to inspect identification documents when they suspect fraud.

But it is not clear whether door greeters, law enforcement, and government officials are on the same page on when someone should be suspicious.

Officials from three separate agencies -law enforcement, the deputy ministry for innovation, and the privacy commissioner’s office- have all pointed Knews to an emergency law based on a health ministry decree, saying Article 83 clearly calls allows authorized persons including door greeters to request to see an ID.

According to Article 83, people entering or moving inside restricted areas, such as supermarkets and department stores, “ought to have on their person an identification card or passport as additional proof of identity.” But the article does not call on door greeters to request an identification document, with officials saying this is because authorized employees simply have the right to do so.

Police want businesses to do their part

Last month police spokesperson Christos Andreou said Safe Pass door greeters need to check identification documents of customers who present a mandatory QR code at the entrance.

But Irene Loizidou-Nikolaidou, the country’s Commissioner for personal data protection, told Knews door greeters have to follow Article 83 which does not require staff to inspect ID cards but call on citizens to show such proof “when it is requested.”

The commissioner told Knews last month that personal data visible during a CovScan, meaning full name and full date of birth, were not a breach of privacy in the Republic of Cyprus. Loizidou-Nikolaidou went on to explain that different countries have adopted various aspects of the inspection apparatus in accordance with the local culture and their own pandemic circumstances.

Knews has been told by Cypriot officials that personal details visible during CovScan checks were appropriate and meant to be helpful in countries where many people may cheat the system, while it would be unnecessary in other states.

“In Greece people have to show their passport to walk into a bank, while in Scandinavian countries this is not needed, people there would never think to use another person’s details, it’s not in their culture,” the official said.

Police told Knews Thursday morning there were no numbers available on how many people have been caught using Safe Pass documents that don’t belong to them.

“If someone has an invalid Safe Pass they will be turned away at the door. If they use someone else’s documents, then this is a crime and law enforcement should be notified,” a police communications officer told Knews.

Officials insist that full names and dates of birth visible through CovScan are an “appropriate response” that can be used as a deterrent for those trying to cheat the system.

Cyprus  |  covscan  |  pandemic  |  police  |  door greeter  |  public health  |  safe pass

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