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Italian police bust fake COVID-19 health pass scheme on Telegram app

Italian police bust fake COVID-19 health pass scheme on Telegram app

Tourists have their Green Passes checked by security staff at the entrance of the Colosseum in Rome on Aug 6, 2021. The passes, which are required to access indoor dining, theatres, indoor swimming pools, gyms, museums and other gathering places, are granted to anyone who has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the last nine months, who has recovered from the virus in the last six months or who has tested negative for an infection in the previous 48 hours. (File photo: AP/Riccardo De Luca)

ROME: Italian police on Monday (Aug 9) blocked several groups on mobile messaging app Telegram where users could buy fake COVID-19 health passes required to access an array of services and leisure activities.

The so-called Green Pass is a digital or paper certificate that shows if someone has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, has tested negative for the virus or has recently recovered from it.

Mario Draghi's government adopted the pass to try to accelerate vaccinations in the face of the Delta variant, but it has triggered protests by some Italians who say that it tramples on freedoms and is an indirect way of making vaccines obligatory.

As of Aug 6, it is required to access gyms, swimming pools, museums and cinemas, and to eat indoors at restaurants. From Sep 1, it will also be mandatory for university students and to travel on trains, planes, ships and coaches.

The police said in a statement that they had shut down 32 Telegram groups operating around the country, offering fake passes to thousands of subscribers for up to €500 (US$588) in cryptocurrency or online shopping vouchers.

Four people were placed under investigation on suspicion of fraud and forgery.

Italy has registered 128,220 COVID-19 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe and the eighth-highest in the world. It has recorded 4.4 million cases to date.

However, many citizens are still reluctant to get vaccinated, even as hospitalisations are rising again.

Some 66 per cent of Italians have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and around 55 per cent are fully inoculated, the latest data shows.

According to the health ministry, about 20 million green certificates have been downloaded in a population of about 60 million.

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Source: Reuters/kg

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