An Italian man is facing charges of fraud after turning up for his Covid-19 vaccine wearing a fake arm.
So determined was he to dodge the jab but still obtain a health pass, the anti-vaxxer may have paid hundreds of euros for the silicone arm.
The bizarre episode at a vaccine hub in Biella, a town close to Turin in the northern Piedmont region, came a week after Italy announced measures barring unvaccinated people from a host of social, cultural and sporting activities.
After completing the bureaucratic formalities, including signing a consent form in front of a doctor, the man, aged 50, sat down and lifted up the sleeve of his shirt as he prepared for a health worker to administer the jab.
Initially, the health worker did not notice anything odd, as the silicone looked similar to skin. But after taking a closer look and touching the arm, the medic asked the man to take off his shirt. His plan foiled, the man, who has not been named, then tried to persuade the health worker to turn a blind eye.
“I felt offended as a professional,” Filippa Bua told La Repubblica. “The colour of the arm made me suspicious and so I asked the man to uncover the rest of his left arm. It was well made but it wasn’t the same colour [as the rest of the arm].” The man said to her: “Would you have imagined that I’d have such a physique?”
She told La Stampa she could not see the man’s veins: “At first I thought I made a mistake, that it was a patient with an artificial arm.”
It is not clear whether he was wearing a whole fake arm or some kind of silicone layer over his skin.
“The promptness and skill of the health worker ruined the plans of this person, who will now have to respond to the judiciary,” Alberto Cirio, the president of Piedmont, said in a joint statement with Luigi Icardi, the regional health councillor.
The newspaper La Repubblica suggested that the incident might not have been a one-off, citing a recent message on social media that might have been written by the man in Biella.
The Twitter post featured a silicone male chest half body suit, complete with fake arms and neck, that was on sale on Amazon for €488 (£416). Alongside the image was the message: “If I go with this, will they notice? Maybe beneath the silicone I’ll even put on some extra clothes to avoid the needle reaching my real arm.”
Cirio and Icardi said the case would “border on the ridiculous”, were it not “for the fact that we are talking about a gesture of enormous gravity”.
“It is unacceptable in the face of the sacrifice that the pandemic is making the whole community pay for,” they added.
Italy has seen a significant rise in the number of bookings for first-time jabs since announcing plans for the “super green pass”, which takes effect nationally from 6 December and requires people to prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 to access cinemas, theatres, gyms, nightclubs, ski lifts and stadiums, as well as to be served indoors at bars and restaurants.