Germany’s Lufthansa cancels all flights to and from China over coronavirus

Germany's flagship carrier Lufthansa said Wednesday it was cancelling all flights to mainland China until February 9th, as fears mount over the deadly coronavirus.

Germany's Lufthansa cancels all flights to and from China over coronavirus
Photo: DPA

The Lufthansa group, one of Europe's largest airline companies, said the decision also applied to flights run by its subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines.

Each of the carriers will fly to their respective destinations in China “one last time” to give passengers and crew “the opportunity to return to Germany, Switzerland and Austria”, the group said in a statement.

The announcement comes after a string of countries — including the United States, Britain and Germany — advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to China because of the virus, which has now killed more than 130 people and infected around 6,000.


British Airways earlier became the first major airline to announce a total suspension of flights to and from mainland China.

Indonesia's Lion Air Group has since followed suit, as have airlines from Myanmar and Nepal.

The Lufthansa group normally operates 73 connections to and from mainland China a week, mainly to Beijing and Shanghai.

Its decision to suspend operations comes after a scare aboard a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to China's Nanjing on Wednesday.

A Chinese passenger who had recently been to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the outbreak, was coughing during the flight and received medical care upon arrival.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Demand for face masks in Germany jumps – but do they actually work?

Out of precaution, Chinese authorities ordered that all passengers sitting in the three rows behind and front of the man be given medical attention.

The crew aboard the plane flew back to Germany on the very next flight, Lufthansa said, adding that German health authorities had been kept informed.

Germany has so far reported four confirmed cases of the virus, all of them employees at a Bavarian car parts company recently visited by a Chinese colleague for a training session.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.