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Greece Hunting Holders of Fake COVID Shots, Recovery Papers

September 12, 2021

ATHENS – With reports growing of at least 200 fraudulent certificates showing the holders have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in Greece – who could infect others – the New Democracy government said it will find them and anyone else with fake documents.

“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,” said Kathimerini.

But there's no report who faked the certificates, or the holders, would be prosecuted despite the danger to public health – it's believed they came from vaccination centers where health care workers are being scrutinized.

Instead, the government plans fines of 5,000 euros ($5907) for each false document found and there was no indication that if it came from doctors or nurses that they would have their licenses revoked or be fired.

“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, ” she said.

Health care workers are required to be vaccinated and those who refuse will be suspended without pay but so far they are the only sector required to be inoculated, with rabid anti-vaxxers in their ranks.

“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 told state broadcaster ERT.

He said that papers supposed to prove that the holder has recovered from the Coronavirus, which would give them the same privileges as the vaccinated to enter indoor spaces for food, drink and entertainment, are harder to pin down.

“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 first fake certificates were discovered at a vaccination center in the town of Karditsa in central Greece where the newspaper said that a worker got into an electronic platform using a doctor's access codes and issued at least 44.

More cases are rapidly coming out, which could undermine the legitimacy of those holding genuine vaccination papers that they must show when traveling internationally, which could put the spotlight on the holders of Greek papers.

Additional fake certificates were found to have been issued in Kozani, Ikaria, Kavala, Messolongi and Patra, where investigations are under way and several medical professionals have already been suspended, the paper said.

Speaking in Thessaloniki, Michael Giannakos, President of the health care workers union POEDIN – which has lost legal appeals against mandatory shots – gave the estimate of fake papers at 200, but no one has been named yet to protect their privacy under Greek law.

Despite its stance against required shots, he said the union recommended being tough on anyone holding fake papers, including its own workers, estimated to be about 10 percent of the sector. 

“Anyone found cheating the system should be fired and sent home or to prison,” he said, taking a tougher stand than Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who backed off mandatory shots for all to alienate a greater share of voters. 

New measures will come into effect Sept. 13 barring the unvaccinated or those with proof of recovery from COVID-19 from going into restaurants, bars, taverns, music halls, concerts, theaters and other spots.

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