Revealed: Hundreds with fake COVID certificates trying to enter UK every week

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 16: The international travellers arrivals areas of London Heathrow Airport in London, United Kingdom on February, 16, 2021. All travellers arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. (Photo by Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Hundreds of people a week are trying to enter the UK using fake coronavirus test certificates, MPs have been told. (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Hundreds of people a week are trying to enter the UK with fake coronavirus test certificates, MPs have been told.

Lucy Moreton, professional officer at the Immigration Services Union (ISU), which represents border, immigration and customs staff in the UK, said the certificates are “very easy to knock up electronically”.

She also said it is “inherently unknowable” how many people with fake certificates are not being caught by the authorities.

About 20,000 people are currently entering the country every day, the majority of which are hauliers.

To enter England, people must provide proof of a negative test taken in the three days before departure. This can be shown to border agents as a printed document or through an email or text message.

On Tuesday, Moreton was asked at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus how officials are able to verify certificates given they are looking at “documentation from all over the world”.

She answered: “We’re not, is the simple answer. It’s predominately taken on trust. We do get 100 or more a day of fake COVID certificates that we can catch.”

Watch: India added to red list as concerns mount over coronavirus variants (from Monday)

Moreton said these are often identified through spelling errors.

"They have to be in one of four languages… so if it’s in English and there’s a spelling error, you’ve got an outside chance of spotting it. If you happen to speak one of the other specified languages and you can spot a spelling error, then you might see that as well.

"Otherwise, they are taken at face value: do you have that bit of paper, or email, or something on your phone that broadly suggests you might have taken a test?

Read more:

Ministers caused ‘widespread COVID confusion’ by issuing last-minute rules at 5pm press conferences

Have your say: How will you find it readjusting to post-pandemic life when lockdown is over?

"There are a series of code numbers… which define exactly what type of test it is and the Border Force officer has a list they can check it against, but these things are very easy to knock up electronically, unfortunately."

Europol had warned earlier this year about the illicit sale of forged negative COVID-19 test certificates.

This included a forgery ring selling negative test results to passengers at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, and in the UK fraudsters were caught selling bogus COVID documents showing negative test results for £100 each.

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown