Germany’s Lufthansa to slash half of flights over coronavirus

German airline giant Lufthansa said Friday it would slash capacity by half in the coming weeks, as the group battles "drastic declines in bookings and numerous flight cancellations" prompted by the novel coronavirus.

Germany's Lufthansa to slash half of flights over coronavirus
Photo: DPA

“Based on further demand development, capacity will be reduced by up to 50 percent in the coming weeks,” Lufthansa said in a statement, after announcing Monday it would cut its flight plan by 25 percent.

READ ALSO: Lufthansa to cut quarter of flights due to coronavirus

The carrier's shares were down slightly in afternoon trading in Frankfurt, shedding 0.8 percent to trade at €11.41, but still outperforming the overall blue-chip DAX index, which was down 3.1 percent.

Lufthansa with subsidiaries like Eurowings, Swiss and Austrian Airlines has announced deep cuts in its timetable this week as the effect of the COVID-19 disease began to bite.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Should you cancel your trip to or from Germany?

It will not fly routes to China and Iran until late April, while Israeli
restrictions on non-resident arrivals from some EU countries prompted it to cut flights to the Jewish state until March 28th.

Capacity equivalent to 150 planes was already grounded, 25 of them from the long-haul fleet.

On Thursday, Lufthansa said its previously-announced 25-percent capacity cut would mean 7,100 flight cancellations around Europe through to the end of its winter timetable on March 28th.

Many of the cancellations will fall on high-frequency German domestic
services to cities like Berlin and Hamburg from the group's Frankfurt and Munich hubs.

Meanwhile, “a second focus of the route cancellations” was Italy, with
cities including Milan, Venice and Rome affected, and other countries around Europe also hit.

The group has also instituted a hiring freeze and is considering slashing workers' hours.

“It is not yet possible to estimate the impact on earnings” from the virus
measures, Lufthansa had said Thursday.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had also warned Thursday the total revenue impact on the industry could be in the range of $63-$100 billion.

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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.