Germany announces economic measures to slow ‘corona-crisis’

Germany has agreed measures to boost its sputtering economy in the face of the fast-spreading coronavirus, while also calling for the cancellation of large events.

Germany announces economic measures to slow 'corona-crisis'
A sign at a car show in Koblenz at the weekend offers visitors the chance to disinfect their hands. Photo: DPA

As the number of cases in Germany pushed beyond 1,000, Health Minister Jens Spahn said gatherings of more than 1,000 people should be scrapped.

“After many discussions with those responsible, I emphatically encourage the cancellation of events with more than 1,000 participants until further notice,” he wrote on Twitter.

Acknowledging the financial hit to organisers of such events in Europe's biggest economy, Spahn said the government would help cushion the blow.

But he also appealed to individuals to “consider what is so important in your daily life that you cannot miss in the next two to three months – be it a visit to the club, a birthday party among family members or an association

Germany has over the last week scrapped several huge fairs, including Berlin's travel fest ITB, industrial show Hannover Messe and the Leipzig book fair.


But Spahn's latest recommendation could lead to the postponement of many more events, including Bundesliga football matches and rock concerts.

German Football League chief Christian Seifert warned however that “the season must end by mid-May” in order for promotion and relegation clubs to be determined and to give participants in international competitions time to prepare.

'Comprehensive' help

With measures taken to halt the virus hitting the economy hard, leaders of Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition agreed on new aid measures after late-night talks.

The coalition “is taking action in the corona-crisis. Besides medical protection measures, we have agreed on a big aid package for the German economy,” tweeted Markus Söder, leader of Merkel's Bavarian allies CSU, calling the package “comprehensive”.

Rules governing compensation for workers forced to cut working hours because of the crisis will be eased, said the government in a statement after late-night talks.

The relaxed criteria will apply from April and will be valid up to the end of the year.

The government also pledged to draw up proposals on offering liquidity support for companies hardest hit by the impact of the outbreak.

Talks with key representatives of the German economy as well as trade unions will be held shortly on the proposals.

Separately, the government said it will also boost investments by €3.1 billion per year between 2021 and 2024.

The total hike in investments totalling €12.4 billion will be entirely funded by 2019's budget surplus.

READ ALSO: Recruitment freeze and home office: How coronavirus is affecting offices in Germany

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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.