Some 110,000 fake health passes are in circulation in France, the interior ministry said Thursday, with hundreds of investigations launched against makers and users of the forged documents.
The health pass, showing proof of vaccination, Covid recovery or a recent negative test result, is required for access to public transport, restaurants and cultural events.
As they investigate users and distributors of the fake documents, police have found that medical staff is sometimes complicit in the fraud, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
“The problem with the fake health passes is that they often involve the collusion of real doctors or real nurses,” he told the France 2 broadcaster. This makes offences “very difficult to prove”.
Some 100 people had been arrested as a result of 400 investigations since the health pass became mandatory in parts of public life, Darmanin said.
They risk up to five years in prison, he said, adding that some have already been sentenced to suspended or actual jail terms.
Last month, a doctor who allegedly sold at least 220 fake health passes in the Paris region was charged and detained.
Darmanin said he was in favour of dropping cases against users of fake health passes who agreed to get a real one legally instead.
The French government has warned that the number of Covid patients in intensive care could reach 4,000 during the Christmas season, compared to 3,000 now.
It is promoting booster vaccine shots to control the worst of the onslaught of the Omicron variant, and has warned that health passes will no longer be valid from mid-January unless holders get a vaccine top-up.