Coronavirus: Germany orders closure of non-essential shops and playgrounds

The German government on Monday banned gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues and ordered non-essential shops as well as playgrounds shut, as it battled to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus: Germany orders closure of non-essential shops and playgrounds
A shopping centre in Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The sweeping restrictions, agreed by the federal and state governments together and aimed at “limiting social contact in public places” will leave most sites from museums to swimming pools to gyms shuttered.

But supermarkets, banks and post offices will stay open, as will pharmacies and petrol stations.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Hairdressers, construction supply stores and laundromats will also keep operating, said the government, saying that the move was to ensure that “service providers and craftsmen can continue to carry out their trade”.

Strict conditions must apply to ensure that there are no queues and not too many people enter the shops at the same time.

Restaurants and cafes can stay open, but only until 6pm daily.

Hotels will only be used for “essential and explicitly not for tourist purposes”, the government added.

'Stay at home'

It came as German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged all citizens to “stay at home”.

“We have to work together to ensure the virus spreads as slowly as possible,” said Steinmeier in a statement.

“So wherever possible: stay at home! Avoid close contact… and have understanding for all restrictive measures.”

Authorities had last week ordered schools shut, and regional trains have been curtailed in a bid to reduce travel.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to make an announcement around 6pm Monday.

Bavaria declares disaster, borders shut

The move came after the state of Bavaria declared a 'disaster' situation earlier on Monday and imposed closures on its

Germany also from Monday re-introduced checks on its borders with Austria, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Denmark, turning back motorists without an essential reason to enter Germany.

With most of Europe now in lockdown, and stock markets in a tailspin, Berlin on Friday promised companies “unlimited” credit to keep them afloat.

The economic package is worth at least 550 billion euros ($614 billion) initially – the biggest in Germany's post-war history.

READ ALSO: Germany unleashes biggest post-war aid package against coronavirus

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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.