Fraudsters are selling airline passengers FAKE Covid negative test certificates for £100, Europol warns, as police catch crooks flogging forged documents in Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands
- Travellers have been warned to look out for gangs selling fake Covid certificates
- Fraudsters have been caught selling bogus COVID-19 test documents for £100
- Gangs are faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the false certificates
Criminal gangs are selling forged Covid certificates at airports for hundreds of pounds, it emerged today.
Several countries, including Britain, require proof of a recent negative test from all international arrivals – but gangs are helping people slip through the net for as little as £35.
Europol issued a warning about the documents as it was revealed a man was arrested at Luton Airport on suspicion of selling fake Covid papers for £100.
The news means that people who could be infected with the virus are able to arrive in Britain unnoticed.
Several countries, including Britain, require proof of a recent negative test from all international arrivals – but gangs are helping people slip through the net
British tourists on skiing holiday in Austria among 96 foreigners put into mandatory quarantine
British tourists are among 96 foreigners to have been put into mandatory quarantine by Austrian police after they were caught breaching Covid-19 restrictions by going on a skiing holiday.
Each person could face a fine of up to €2,180 (£1,921) if they are found to have used loopholes to stay at the St Anton am Arlberg resort, in Austria’s Tyrol region.
Some of the group registered local addresses, or said they were there for work reasons, the BBC reported on Monday.
Ski slopes in Austria are currently open to locals, but closed to foreigners.
Police said the group of 92 people included Irish, German, Romanian, Danish, Swedish, Polish, Australian and British tourists.
It is currently unclear how many British people have been quarantined.
Everyone in the group must now show coronavirus PCR tests after the police checked 44 hotels and chalets in the central Austrian resort.
The EU’s police agency issued a warning to travellers today, amid several arrests across the continent.
Gangs are faking the name of a genuine laboratory on the false certificates in a bid to dupe border officials, Europol said.
New rules came into force on January 18 requiring arrivals in the UK to prove they were negative for coronavirus with a test that meets performance standards of 97 per cent specificity and 80 per cent sensitivity at high viral loads.
This is most likely to be a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which tend to take 12 to 48 hours for the results to come back.
However passengers could also use a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test – although these have been criticised for being less accurate especially when self-administered and so could fail to meet requirements.
A trial of one lateral flow test used by the Government found that it detected 79 per cent of cases when administered by a trained professional but only 40 per cent if someone is self-swabbing.
This is significantly lower than the more expensive but slower PCR tests which detect 70 to 99 per cent of positive cases. Rapid tests are more accurate for those with high viral loads.
A number of suspects have been caught selling the forged certificates online and through mobile messaging chat groups in Spain and the Netherlands.
Europol added: ‘As long as travel restrictions remain in place due to the pandemic, it is very likely that criminals will seize the opportunity of producing and selling fake Covid-19 test certificates.
‘Given the widespread technological means available in the form of high-quality printers and different software, fraudsters are able to produce high-quality counterfeit, forged or fake documents.’
Criminal gangs are selling forged Covid certificates at airports for hundreds of pounds
French police last year broke up a forgery ring at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris, which was selling fake certificates for up to £260.
And a man was arrested 10 days ago at Luton Airport on suspicion of selling fake Covid papers.
According to the BBC, the suspect, in his 30s, was arrested on suspicion of fraud by false representation and released under investigation.
In Spain, police arrested a man selling forged papers for 40 euros online, while in the Netherlands scammers were doing the same via mobile messaging applications.
MailOnline has contacted the Home Office for comment.
Boris Johnson says he is ‘optimistic’ summer holidays WILL happen as he insists Covid lockdown is working and vaccines ARE effective against variants with report hailing ‘stabilising’ cases – but warns UK must keep ‘foot on the throat of the beast’
Boris Johnson today insisted lockdown is working and vaccines are effective against coronavirus variants – as he held out hopes summer holidays can happen this year.
The PM struck a positive tone as he visited a vaccination site in Yorkshire, saying there was evidence of a ‘flattening and maybe even a falling off of infection rates and hospitalisations’.
After a leaked Cabinet Office report hailed the ‘stabilising’ situation, he also stressed that the government believes all the jabs being used in the UK are effective against all variants. And after mixed messages from ministers he said he was ‘optimistic’ that Britons will be able to go on summer breaks.
The brighter news was underlined tonight with figures showing deaths down nearly a third on last Monday at 406, and new infections at a seven-week low of 18,607.
But Mr Johnson dodged committing to any timetable, amid fears that the South African version of the disease is transmitting in the community.
The PM struck a positive tone as he visited a vaccination site in Yorkshire, saying there was evidence of a ‘flattening and maybe even a falling off of infection rates and hospitalisations’
Door-to-door coronavirus testing is being launched across eight parts of England amid fears the variant is now spreading in the community.
The PM told reporters on his visit to the vaccination hub in Batley: ‘We are starting to see some signs of a flattening and maybe even a falling off of infection rates and hospitalisations.
‘But don’t forget that they are still at a very high level by comparison with most points in the last 12 months, a really very high level.
‘So the risk is if you take your foot off the throat of the beast, as it were, and you allow things to get out of control again then you could, alas, see the disease spreading again fast before we have got enough vaccines into people’s arms. That’s the risk.’
Q&A: Do I need to have proof of a negative Covid-19 test when I arrive in Britain – and what standards must it meet?
What are the new rules for UK arrivals?
Arrivals must receive a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken at least five days after they enter the UK.
Do I need to get a negative test when I arrive in the UK?
Yes, all arrivals into England – including British citizens – must test negative for Covid-19 up to 72 hours before leaving the country of departure. Your test will also be checked by the airline before you board a plane abroad.
What will you have to present at the UK border?
Border Force officials are carrying out spot checks on those arriving by air, land or sea – but they have today been checking all arrivals, according to passengers.
Your Covid-19 negative test results must be presented in either English, French or Spanish. Translations are not accepted, and you must provide the original certificate.
The test result must be provided either as a physical printed document or via email or text message, which can be shown on a mobile phone. This must include:
- your name, matching it on your travel documents
- your date of birth or age
- the result of the test
- the date the test sample was collected or received by the test provider
- the name of the test provider and their contact details
- the name of the test device
Anyone arriving without a test result that includes all of the above information will be committing a criminal offence which could see them receive a £500 fine.
What test must you have?
The test must meet standards of ≥97% specificity and ≥80% sensitivity at viral loads above 100,000 copies/ml. The Government says this could include tests such as:
- a nucleic acid test, including a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or derivative technologies, including loop-mediated isothermal amplification (Lamp) tests
- an antigen test, such as a test from a lateral flow device.
Will you have to prove your test meets requirements?
Yes. The Government says it is your responsibility to ensure a test meets minimum standards for sensitivity, specificity and viral load details – so you must check with your test provider that it meets those requirements.
You may need proof in the form of a letter from a test provider detailing its specificity and sensitivity levels.
What is the difference between the tests?
PCR tests, nasal and throat swab tests normally take between 12 and 48 hours to return results.
Lamp tests can return results in two hours, and lateral flow tests can generate results in less than 30 minutes.
Whichever test it is must meet the required performance standards listed by the Government.
Border Force agents will check that the information required is present on the notification. Provided the test meets the set criteria, then it will be accepted. If it does not, you could be fined – even with a negative test result.
What are the concerns over lateral flow tests?
There are fears that lateral flow tests might not be as reliable as PCR tests. But Innova makes a lateral flow test which has a sensitivity of more than 95 per cent for high viral loads – meeting UK Government requirements.
A trial of one lateral flow test used by the Government found that it detected 79 per cent of cases when administered by a trained professional but only 40 per cent if someone is self-swabbing. This is significantly lower than the more expensive but slower PCR tests which detect 70 to 99 per cent of positive cases.
Passengers are responsible for ensuring their test meets requirements and may be asked to provide proof.
Is there a specific list of accepted tests?
No. The Government does not provide a list of approved providers or tests worldwide. The passenger has to check that the test that they use meets the standards.
What is the penalty if you don’t have a valid test result?
New arrivals who flout the rules will face a minimum £500 fine while their flight operator will also be fined.
Separately, arrivals into England who do not self-isolate can face fines between £1,000 and £10,000.
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