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Merkel to give first ever TV address on coronavirus crisis as infections soar in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel will for the first time deliver a televised address to German citizens on the escalating coronavirus crisis on Wednesday evening, a government spokesman said.

Merkel to give first ever TV address on coronavirus crisis as infections soar in Germany
Chancellor Angela Merkel will address Germany on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

“Germany's biggest challenge since World War Two”: Merkel has given her TV address, CLICK HERE to here what she had to say.

 

The German leader is expected to urge the public to heed government recommendations to stay home, after Europe's biggest economy announced sweeping new measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Aside from her annual New Year's Eve address, it will be the first time in her 15-year tenure as chancellor that Merkel has addressed citizens directly via a televised statement.

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

The chancellor will not announce “new measures” in the address, which will be broadcast by Germany's two major broadcasters ARD and ZDF, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

“It will be about what now has to be done in Germany in order to slow the spread of the virus and how each individual should play their part in that,” he said.

On Monday, the government and federal states announced drastic new restrictions to public life, including the closure of all non-essential shops and a ban on religious gatherings.

Supermarkets, banks and pharmacies are among the shops allowed to stay open, while bars, clubs, swimming pools and cinemas have been told to close.

Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also urged citizens to “stay home” and to cancel holidays “at home and abroad”.

Germany is among the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with latest figures showing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is approaching 10,000.

A total of 26 people have died in connection with the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Robert Koch Institute.

On Tuesday morning there were about 7,272 confirmed cases and under 20 reported deaths.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus restrictions: What's closed (and what's open) in Germany?

The RKI for public health, which publishes the official figures, urged citizens to avoid social contact and warned of an exponential rise in infections early Wednesday.

“If we don't manage to sustainably and effectively reduce contact between people over a matter of weeks, then it is possible we will have up to 10 million cases within two to three months,” said RKI president Lothar Wieler at a press conference.

Wieler also called on clinics and hospitals to expand their intensive and respiratory care facilities “as much as possible”, saying capacities should “at least double”.

“Train students, activate doctors who may have gone into retirement,” he said.

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HEALTH

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. 

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