BERLIN -- Police in Germany are investigating thousands of cases of suspected forgery of coronavirus vaccine certificates, the dpa news agency reported Wednesday.
It cited figures obtained from the country's 16 states showing more than 12,000 police investigations have been opened nationwide.
Dpa reported that the number of probes surged in December, after authorities announced new restrictions that largely locked unvaccinated people out of public life.
Those who supply or use fake certificates could face severe penalties, from fines and suspended prison sentences to losing their jobs.
Prosecutors have opened a manslaughter investigation in one case after a woman used a fake vaccine certificate to continue working at a nursing home, despite having family members ill with COVID-19 at home.
Germany's parliament is expected to begin debating a universal vaccine mandate in the coming months, though government officials acknowledge the measure is unlikely to take effect for several months.
Almost 73% of the German population have received a full course of vaccines against COVID-19, while nearly 48 % have had an additional booster shot.
Germany saw a new record number of confirmed cases Wednesday. The country's disease control agency reported 112,323 new infections in the past 24 hours, and 239 COVID-related deaths.
The highest weekly case rate was recorded in Berlin's Mitte district, where Germany's government district is located.
Neighboring Austria also saw a further surge in cases to about 30,000 Wednesday. Chancellor Karl Nehammer called it a “shockingly high number” that almost doubled the previous record figure.
Nehammer noted that the number of hospitalizations had remained stable, however, a sign that the omicron variant is more infectious but causes less serious illness.
Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to early studies. Omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.
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