Spain’s Cantabria scraps Covid health pass for being ‘ineffective’

Health authorities in the northern Spanish region are the first not to request an extension of the Covid health pass requirement for daily affairs in their region, considering the measure to have “not been effective” in helping to reduce Omicron infections during Spain’s sixth wave. 

Covid health pass cantabria spain
If there's a positive to draw is that 5,700 adults in the region have received their first Covid-19 vaccinations since the Covid health pass rule came into force. Photo: Cristina Vega RHOR / AFP

From Wednesday January 19th it will no longer be necessary for people in the northern region of Cantabria to show a Covid health pass to access hospitality and nightlife venues, cultural and sporting venues, and mass events.

Cantabrian health authorities reached the decision on Tuesday, justifying that “it no longer meets its objective” of preventing Covid-19 infections in indoor spaces where food and drink is consumed. 

“This was our objective with the Covid passport but with the Omicron variant infections cannot be avoided, so the measure isn’t effective,” Cantabrian health director Reinhard Wallmann told journalists during a press conference. 

The Covid health pass requirement has been in place for the last 40 days in Cantabria, where the fortnightly infection rate is now 4,286 cases per 100,000, higher than the national average and described as “sky-high” by Wallmann.

The rate of Covid hospitalisations and ICU admissions is also slightly above the national rate, which is in the “high risk” level across most of Spain. 

READ ALSO: Is the Covid health pass helping to reduce infections in Spain?

Cantabria is the first of the thirteen regions who received court approval to implement the Covid health pass rule to not request an extension, with all other regional governments having already extended it by several weeks or not yet announced what their next step will be. 

READ MORE: Spain’s Andalusia and Valencia regions extend Covid health pass requirement

One positive Wallmann has pointed out is that since the Covid health pass was made mandatory for daily affairs, 5,700 adults in the region with a population of 581,000 inhabitants have had their first Covid-19 vaccines, instigated either by this measure or due to “fear” of contracting the virus during this sixth coronavirus wave. 

However, this “motivating effect” has now been completed and in recent weeks the number of initial adult vaccinations has been decreasing, so the region does not see “sufficient justification” to keep the Covid health pass any longer.

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What are the penalties in Spain for having a fake Covid-19 certificate?

As the EU Digital Covid Certificate and other forms of proof of Covid-19 status are likely to be in use in Spain for all of 2022, we take a look at the fines and prison sentences that Spanish authorities can hand out to those with forged documents.

What are the penalties in Spain for having a fake Covid-19 certificate?

The Covid-19 pass or certificate has been divisive since it was introduced in 2021, with some seeing it as the most straightforward tool to find out one’s vaccination, testing or recovery status, and others considering it discriminatory and ineffective. 

Whatever your opinion of it, an official Covid-19 certificate – which usually includes a QR Code – will continue being required for travel to and from Spain in 2022. In fact, the European Commission has recently proposed that EU Covid Digital Certificates should be in use until at least June 30th 2023. 

The requirement of a Covid pass for domestic affairs in Spain such as going into a restaurant or a museum is decided by local governments, and although more and more regions are getting rid of its usage, it may not be completely scrapped for domestic matters altogether. 

So what happens if you are caught in possession of a fake Covid-19 certificate in Spain?

According to Article 392 of Spain’s Penal Code, forging official documents can result in prison sentences of between six months and three years. In some cases, sentences under two years don’t result in actual jail time, but not always.  

Crucially, Spanish law will treat the person who forged the document equally to the person who commissioned it or used it, resulting in the same punishment. 

Being caught in possession of a forged Covid-19 pass can also carry fines that vary depending on the person’s available savings and the length of the penalty, making it hard to give exact amounts. 

It can start from €6 a day, which is multiplied by the number of days of the financial sentence, which is usually from six to twelve months. Therefore the minimum fine could be around €1,095.

Forging the result of Covid-19 on a medical certificate carries different penalties as it does not constitute the forgery of an official state document but rather a privately issued one, and is therefore regulated under Article 399 of Spain’s Criminal Code. 

A potential prison sentence wouldn’t be possible in this case but a substantial fine similar to that for falsifying Covid-19 certificates could apply.

In both cases, regional high courts and governments may apply their own regional legislation, which can be more or less punitive, especially in financial terms. 

Spanish police have recently been carrying out arrests of criminal gangs that were selling fake Covid passports online for as much as €200 or €300. 

There are no recently reported cases of foreign tourists being arrested or fined in Spain for arriving with a fake Covid-19 certificate or test, but failing to meet Spain’s entry requirements can result in a minimum fine of €3,000.