Healthcare workers in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, burn photographs of the SARS-CoV2 virus during a protest against mandatory vaccinations, outside the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry, on Friday. [Yiannis Moisiadis/InTime News]
The Health Ministry is casting a wide net to catch individuals with false Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificates and the people who issued them, particularly in the public healthcare system, as more cases of fraud emerge.
“We will be ruthless,” Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga said after a meeting with regional health officials in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, ahead of the Thessaloniki International Fair this weekend.
“False certificates are a problem that is upsetting us a lot. I think there is a very small number of them right now and these can be checked. Legal action will be taken in those cases where fraud is confirmed and we will be ruthless,” she said, stressing that health workers – for whom vaccination against Covid-19 is mandatory – will feel the full weight of the law.
“We have given orders so that all cases are investigated, and especially those emerging after the law on mandatory vaccinations was ratified and enacted,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said earlier in comments to state broadcaster ERT.
He expressed particular concern about false Covid recovery certificates, saying that they are much harder to pin down than forged proof of vaccination.
“There is no track and trace system for these cases, which is why we need to conduct inspection everywhere, to see what is going on,” he said, indicating widespread checks at vaccination centers across the country.
The issue of fake certificates exploded earlier this month when it emerged that an employee at a vaccination center in Karditsa, central Greece, had tapped into the electronic platform using a doctor’s access codes and issued at least 44 fake vaccination certificates. Since then, more cases keep emerging every day, such as in Kozani, Ikaria, Kavala, Messolongi and Patra, where investigations are under way and several medical professionals have already been suspended.
Speaking at a gathering in Thessaloniki on Friday, meanwhile, the president of the POEDIN union of public hospital workers estimated that the total number of false vaccination certificates in that sector is probably around 200.
Michalis Giannakos said the union has recommended rooting out fraudsters by giving everyone working at public hospitals an antibody test. “Anyone found cheating the system should be fired and sent home or to prison,” he said.
Vaccination against Covid-19 has been mandatory for all health and care workers since September 1, while the government is weighing the option of extending the measure to more professional sectors such as security personnel, educators and priests. Workers who refuse to be vaccinated are suspended without pay until they do so.
Moreover, new measures come into effect on Monday, preventing people who do not have a vaccination certificate or proof of recovery from Covid-19 in the last six months from enjoying a range of leisure and other activities.