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UPDATE: Coronavirus cases in Germany top 2,500 as death toll rises to five

As of Thursday afternoon, there were more than 2,500 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in all of Germany's 16 states, and three deaths.

UPDATE: Coronavirus cases in Germany top 2,500 as death toll rises to five
A guard stands outside of a coronavirus testing station at the DRK Kliniken Berlin Westend on Wednesday, March 11th. Photo: DPA

This story may be out of date. Please refer to our most up to date coronavirus coverage here.

A fifth death, and first in Bavaria, due to the novel coronavirus was reported on Thursday afternoon. The 80-year-old man had pre-existing medical conditions

A fourth death due to coronavirus was confirmed earlier in the day, according to Baden-Württemberg's Ministry of Social Affairs.

The 67-year-old came from the Rems-Murr district. This was the first death reported in the southwestern state, which as of Thursday at at 5pm reported over 330 cases. 

All of Germany's 16 states have had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of reported infections in Germany to 2,512 as of Thursday at 5pm, or about 1,200 more cases than reported two days earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute.

Germany's third mortality due to the coronavirus has been reported the previous day on Wednesday, in the virus hotspot of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia. It was the second death confirmed in the district, which has over 365 coronavirus cases out of about 250,000 inhabitants.

On Monday, the first two deaths from coronavirus in Germany were reported in the western German city of Essen and in Heinsberg.

READ ALSO: Germany reports first two coronavirus deaths

Saxony-Anhalt in eastern Germany had been the only state without a reported case until Tuesday morning, when public health authorities confirmed that a man from Halle in his mid-20s who had recently returned from Northern Italy had become infected with the virus. By Thursday there were 34 cases reported in the state.

There have been a a total of 123 coronavirus cases confirmed in Berlin, and growing fears after it was reported that one person spread the virus to 16 others at a nightclub in the capital's Tiergarten neighbourhood.

Over 1,000 cases are currently being reported in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state where an infected couple attended carnival celebrations in Heinsberg in February.

READ ALSO: 'Huge wave of solidarity': How North Rhine-Westphalia is coping with the spread of coronavirus

Growing number of infections

As the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany continues to rise, German authorities have called on German residents to avoid high risk areas.

He said people should refrain from unnecessary travel to Italy, which has a strict movement ban in place until April 3rd, and also affected parts of NRW, in the west of Germany.
Officials have also called on events with more than 1,000 people to be cancelled. It's resulted in cultural events being cancelled, nightclubs closing and football matches being played behind closed doors.
She said the main aim was to not overload the health system and urged citizens to do what they could to slow down the spread.
When it comes to protecting vulnerable people, including the elderly or those with underlying illnesses, Merkel said: “Our solidarity, our sensibility and our hearts are already being put to the test, and I hope that we will pass this test.”
Meanwhile, Merkel said Germany would do what's needed when it comes to supporting the economy, health services and people during the crisis.
Health Minister Jens Spahn previously appealed to citizens not to buy masks or protective clothing – and instead to leave these for doctors and nursing staff. On Friday March 6th, large quantities of disinfectants, breathing masks, gloves and protective clothing were stolen from the children's intensive care unit of Berlin's Virchow Clinic hospital.
Out of the all of the confirmed cases since January, 25 people are fully healthy again.
Health expert Karl Lauterbach (SPD) told Business Insider that he fears care shortages in German hospitals in case of a major epidemic. 

“We have bottlenecks, of course. The most notably of these is the small number of nursing staff, especially those who can work in intensive care,” Lauterbach told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper.

The entrance to the Berlin Charité. Photo: DPA

Large hospitals are prepared for an epidemic

Large hospitals such as the Berlin Charité, however, say that they are already prepared for an epidemic.

In the event of a sharp rise in the number of infections, there is always the possibility of postponing planned interventions or surgeries in order to create additional bed capacities at short notice, the hospital group told DPA.

The postponement would also allow additional staff to be recruited for the care of coronavirus patients.

The nine state-owned Vivantes clinics in Berlin also have about 1,860 rooms that can be insulated, according to their own statements. Berlin is the largest city in Germany with 3.7 million inhabitants.

But not every infected person falls ill, and around 80 percent show mild symptoms, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

According to current global findings, up to 15 percent of those affected develop more severe courses of the disease. These often include elderly people and patients with previous illnesses. 

The isolation of those affected and the search for contact persons is carried out in order to slow down the spread of the virus as much as possible.

The aim is to maintain as much capacity as possible in the health care system.

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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.