Merkel calls for social contact ‘to be avoided where possible’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on organisers of non essential events gathering hundreds of people to cancel them to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Merkel calls for social contact 'to be avoided where possible'
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

“That is a call to all,” she said, noting that “where possible, social contact must be avoided”.

Merkel said all events of under 1,000 people should be cancelled. The German government had previously recommended the cancellation of events gathering more than 1,000 people.

But with Germany reporting increasing COVID-19 cases reaching 2,369 including five deaths on Thursday, Merkel's government has ramped up its response.

While acknowledging that developments in coming days could lead to more closure of kindergartens or schools in Germany, Merkel fell short of announcing a blanket closure.

The regional governments of Germany's 16 states will decide if they want to shutter school gates according to the local situation, Merkel said, adding that an option could be to bring forward April's Easter school holidays.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus in Germany: 'Children should not be cared for by grandparents'

Merkel said on Wednesday that experts expect up to 70 percent of the German population to eventually contract the virus.

She said said people in Germany needed to do their bit to protect vulnerable people by trying to limit the spread of the virus.

“Our solidarity, our reason and our hearts are already being put to the test, and I hope that we will pass this test,” said Merkel.

READ ALSO: School closures and no partying: How coronavirus is affecting life 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.