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HEALTH

‘Please be patient’: Germany continues to bring back citizens stranded abroad

Germany has repatriated more than 160,000 of its nationals from abroad as borders close due to the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Saturday.

‘Please be patient’: Germany continues to bring back citizens stranded abroad
Standed Germans being flown back from Mallorca. Photo: DPA

The foreign ministry had earlier estimated that around 200,000 Germans were stranded abroad and seeking repatriation.

Most were tourists who found themselves stuck after the country they were visiting closed its borders and suspended flights in and out.

READ ALSO: 120,000 Germans stranded abroad over coronavirus flown home

“We have so far repatriated over 160,000 Germans,” Maas said on Twitter. “We are going to continue. Please be patient when we can't help you get” he added.

The government last week agreed to spend €50 million in a deal with commercial airlines to fly citizens home from affected regions.

EU foreign ministers have agreed to share flight capacity and data to help return as many people as possible to the bloc.

On Thursday EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc had managed to repatriated some 100,000 Europeans trapped overseas.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, closed its land borders last week and the European Union has also sealed its external borders to incoming travellers to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Germany has also imposed a ban on gatherings of more than two people, and shut schools, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants.

As of Monday morning, Germany had over 64,000 coronavirus cases and 541 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute.

READ ALSO: 'We don't know how to get her home': Munich man struggles to bring back wife stranded abroad by coronavirus crisis

For members

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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