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HEALTH

How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones

Up until now, employees in Germany on sick leave have been required to submit a sick notification on paper directly to their employer.

How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones
An 'Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung', or sick note, which until now the employee submits directly to their employer after receiving it from a doctor. Photo: DPA

But the yellow paper note – officially called a Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung (incapacity to work certificate) is slated to be abolished and replaced by an electronic certificate as of January 1st, 2021. 

Through a new regulation, doctors' practices will inform health insurance companies electronically about sick leave in the future.

The latter will then forward the certificate directly to the employer, and let them know about the start date and duration of the sick leave. 

A bill to replace the long-standing paper gelben Scheine (yellow notes), as they are commonly known, was pushed forward by Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) as a way of minimizing bureaucracy. 

Passed on Wednesday, it applies to all legally insured people in Germany, or about 85 percent of the population. 

READ ALSO: German healthcare – Everything you need to know

Electronically submitted

The sick notification has previously consisted of several pieces of paper: One must be sent to the employer, one to the health insurance company, and one is intended for personal files.

Employees are usually required to give their employers this official notification after the fourth day of calling in sick. However, some employers may demand official proof as early as the first day of sick leave.  

READ ALSO: The 10 rules you need to know if you get sick in Germany

While the new regulation officially goes into effect on January 1st, 2021, Statutory health insurance company Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) already has a pilot project for sick notifications to be transmitted digitally to employers.

An increasing number of people are taking sick leave in Germany each year, with an estimated 4.45 percent of publicly insured workers away from the office due to illness in 2019.

Graph prepared for The Local by Statista.

Yet some say that the plans don’t go far enough to relieve red tape. “One swallow does not make a summer”- and [one digital plan] doesn't yet make a law to relieve bureaucracy,” said Steffen Kampeter, Managing Director of the employers' association BDA, to DPA.

There have been previous attempts to reduce bureaucracy involved with sick notes. Late last year, a Hamburg start-up announced a plan to issue sick notes through WhatsApp after connecting patients and doctors. 

However, health care companies were sceptical of the notes being accepted by all employers.

READ ALSO: Don’t use WhatsApp sick note service, German doctors advise 

Germany’s grand coalition is planning further digitalization measures. In the future, it will be easier to store tax documents electronically. Furthermore, a digital registration form is planned for overnight stays in hotels.

Vocabulary

Abolish – abschaffen

Notification of sickness – (die) Krankmeldung

Doctor’s note – (die) Krankschreibung

Sick leave – (der) Krankenstand (KS)

Transmitted digitally – digital übermittelt

One swallow does not make a summer – Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer 

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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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