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HEALTH

How people in Germany are showing their solidarity during the corona crisis

From being good neighbours to making donations, take a look at some of the ways in which people throughout Germany are showing their support for each other in these unprecedented times.

How people in Germany are showing their solidarity during the corona crisis
A traffic sign in NRW reads "We are united. Respect and thanks!". Source: DPA

In her speech to the nation last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the Corona crisis is the greatest challenge facing Germany since the Second World War and that since then, there has been no cause for which our collective solidarity has been so important.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus pandemic is Germany's biggest challenge since WWII, warns Merkel

We take a look at just some of the ways people across Germany have been showing their support for their fellow citizens in these unprecedented times.

Thanks for frontline workers

While streets up and down the country have become eerily calm in the last weeks, hospitals have turned into hives of frantic activity, with healthcare workers toiling around the clock to deliver the best treatment to those battling the virus. As well as healthcare workers, supermarket operatives and delivery personnel have also still been going to work to ensure that peoples’ basic needs continue to be met. 

READ ALSO: How to help others in Germany during the coronavirus pandemic

To show their appreciation for these “Corona helpers”, citizens have been taking to their balconies to applaud those risking their health to help others. Videos of the nightly applause have been shared in Münster and Hessen, Köln, Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg and many other regions. 

In Stuttgart and Baden-Württemberg, banners displaying expressions of thanks have been appearing in front of hospitals and even on Autobahn bridges.

A banner outside the Robert Bosch hospital in Stuttgart reads: “Thank you for your service”. Source: DPA

There have also been numerous reports of “cooking for heroes” actions around the country. In Hamburg, celebrity chef Tim Mälzer has been delivering food to doctors, care workers and supermarket workers.

In NRW, a local  restaurant has been delivering food to pharmacy workers and carers and in Berlin, Michelin starred restaurant Tulus Lotrek has been preparing gourmet meals for healthcare workers.

READ ALSO: 'Cooking for heroes': Michelin chefs whip it up for Berlin healthcare workers

Being good neighbours

Before the Corona crisis many of us may have had no idea with whom we shared a building or a street. But given the threat that the virus poses to certain vulnerable groups, Nachbarschaftshilfe (neighbourhood help) groups have been popping up all over the country in an effort to help those members of the community to still get the things they need.

“Corona Help Groups” from all over Germany – from Aachen to Munich, Bonn to Karlshagen – have reported thousands of new members signing up to assist their neighbours in the last ten days.

A lady in Essen delivers groceries to her elderly neighbour in Essen. Source: DPA

In Wuppertal, a group of students have set up a group called Studenten für Senioren (Students for seniors) where young people at university are paired with a pensioner who they can then help with shopping 

A similar scheme by students began last week in Hannover and over 900 volunteers signed up within three days to provide a telephone shopping delivery service for older people.

Donations

Many money-raising initiatives have been springing up across the country to help those who are facing unexpected financial hardship as a result of the Corona crisis. 

Over €3 million has already been donated to the scheme #WeKickCorona, started last week by German national football team players Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. 

The aim of the scheme is to finance help for those  who are themselves helpers, but who are currently limited in their options, such as charitable organizations, support associations, but also many social projects.

Artists are a group who have been particularly hard hit by the Corona crisis and the scheme #AktionTicketBehalten (keep ticket action) has been set up to encourage people not to seek a refund for cancelled artistic performances.

There have also been numerous donation drives, including by the German Orchestra Foundation which has already raised thousands for now out-of-work professional musicians.

Berliners queue to give blood – whilst keeping their distance from each other. Source: DPA

Giving blood

Those who can’t necessarily afford to donate but have been donating something even more precious – their blood. 

After the German Red Cross reported a decline in blood donations last week, the blood donation service in the Northeast recorded an “overwhelming” response in the following days, which secured the supply of donor blood in the region.

In Karlsruhe, the German Red Cross reported even more blood donations than usual in the last weeks.

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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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