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HEALTH

UPDATE: Merkel avoids handshakes as Germany coronavirus cases reach 157

Germany's interior minister rebuffed Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to shake hands with him on Monday as the number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 157 with Berlin reporting its first infection.

UPDATE: Merkel avoids handshakes as Germany coronavirus cases reach 157
On Friday Merkel held up her hands at a reception in Stralsund to gesture that she did not want to shake anyone's hands. Photo: DPA

When Merkel reached out to greet Horst Seehofer at a meeting on migration in Berlin, he smiled and kept both his hands to himself.

They both laughed and Merkel then threw her hand up in the air before taking a seat – a gesture which the chancellor have been making over the last week.

Health experts have recommended avoiding handshakes as a way of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Five key questions about the coronavirus answered

There are now 157 confirmed cases in Germany, Lothar Weiler of the Robert Koch Institute disease control agency said on Monday morning — up from 129 the previous day. The first infection in Berlin was also announced on late Sunday evening.

The alert level has been raised from “low to moderate” to “moderate,” Weiler said, with authorities saying there was no need for drastic measures like border closure to stem the contagion.

On Tuesday evening, Germany saw its first new cases in over a month – since the first cases emerged in Bavaria in January – and within a week grew to one of the most affected countries in Europe.

Graph prepared for The Local by Statista.

The virus has now spread to 10 of Germany's 16 states, with more than half the confirmed cases in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germany's most populous state emerged as a hotspot after an infected couple attended carnival celebrations there, infecting dozens of people.

Carmaker BMW confirmed on Monday that one of its employees in Munich has  tested positive for the virus.

Staff who have had close contact with the man have been asked to  self-quarantine for 14 days, a spokeswoman said, and affected areas have been sealed off and disinfected.

Amid growing fears over contagion, disinfectants, hand sanitisers and other protective products have sold out in many German shops.

In Lower Saxony, 1,200 protective face masks were stolen from a hospital in the town of Sulingen near Bremen, news agency DPA reported on Monday, citing local police.

The hospital reported the theft after a stock check revealed that the masks were missing from a storage room.

Germany has cancelled several major gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including this week's ITB travel trade fair in Berlin and the smaller Berlin Travel Festival, which was scheduled to take place this upcoming weekend.

Health Mininster Jens Spahn stressed on Monday that it was too early to say whether further public events would be cancelled.

With panic setting in, security at Bundesliga football club RB Leipzig threw out a group of Japanese fans, forcing the team to apologise on Monday.

The group were removed from the stadium by security about 10 minutes into the game against Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday.

The club said its security had made a “mistake” after being asked to carry out extra checks on people from potential risk areas.

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HEALTH

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. 

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