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HEALTH

How are doctors in Germany coping with spread of coronavirus?

GPs say they are prepared for dealing with the virus spread, and patients' worries – but they are concerned about running out of protective equipment.

How are doctors in Germany coping with spread of coronavirus?
A medical professional holding a protective respiratory mask. Photo: DPA

“The basic stock of protective equipment available to office-based colleagues in their practices will not be sufficient nationwide if the number of suspected cases increases,” said Andreas Gassen, head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV). “And everything points to that.”

He said that talks were therefore being held with Germany’s Health Ministry, and all those involved, in order to find a rapid solution and to provide protective clothing and materials, such as respiratory masks, where it was needed. 

“It must be clear how doctors can get the necessary material,” Gassen said. This is subject to constant coordination.

Gassen added: “We are taking the situation seriously. But there's still no reason to panic.” 

It was to be expected that the number of confirmed cases in Germany would increase, and that they will continue to grow, health professionals recognise.

“What is important, however, is that many infected people have no symptoms at all, most of them have only flu-like symptoms, only a few fall seriously ill,” said Gassen.

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

Doctors in Germany are well organised

It should also not be forgotten that regardless of the coronavirus, many people are currently suffering from a cold or flu-like infection.

When asked whether practices across the Bundesrepublik could cope with the situation, Gassen said: “A resounding yes.” 

He said that GPs were well organised and positioned. As far as tests for the new virus are concerned, an agreement on the assumption of costs was quickly reached with the Central Association of Statutory Health Insurance Organisations.

“If a doctor deems such a test to be appropriate from a medical point of view, then he should carry it out,” said Gassen.

READ ALSO: Merkel avoids handshakes amid rising number of virus cases

The test is a throat swab that is analysed in a laboratory. “There are no known capacity problems,” added Gassen.

He explained that GPs understand patients' concerns but urged for people to be aware of the most up-to-date information and phone the doctor instead of visiting them.

“You can support us,” he said. “If you are worried that you might have contracted the disease because you suffer from cold symptoms and have been in a region where coronavirus cases have occurred, first contact a doctor or on-call doctor's office by telephone – this is important.”

It is also possible to dial the nationwide medical on-call number: 116-117. If necessary, further action or clarification will then be carried out.

READ ALSO: MAPS: The parts of Germany most affected by coronavirus

Vocabulary

Protective equipment – (die) Schutzausrüstung

Respiratory mask – (die) Atemschutzmaske

GPs see themselves as prepared – die Praxisärzte sehen sich gewappnet

Not be sufficient/enough – nicht ausreichen

Throat swab (der) Rachenabstrich

No reason to panic – kein Grund zur Panik

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

 

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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