‘Absolute madness’: Outrage as crowds flout Germany’s coronavirus rules

Police in Germany were called out hundreds of times at the weekend as residents flouted restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of coronavirus.

'Absolute madness': Outrage as crowds flout Germany's coronavirus rules
People enjoy the sun in a park in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

Spring-like weather is usually a cause for celebration. But during corona-times, sunshine and warm temperatures mean that people are more tempted to flout lockdown restrictions.

And at the weekend, German police reported numerous violations of the rules which have been put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday morning there were more than 62,400 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany and more than 500 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and the Robert Koch Institute.

Last Sunday, Germany announced a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public as well as other measures, such as a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between people.

Individual states have also introduced their own measures. In Bavaria and Saarland, for example, stricter lockdowns are being enforced.


'Absolute madness'

In Bavaria, which has around 13 million residents, a curfew has been in force since March 21st which stipulates that going outside – initially up until and including April 3rd – is only allowed if there are good reasons for it.

These include going to work, necessary shopping, visits to the doctor, and “sports and exercise in the fresh air” – either alone or with the people you live with. Anyone who does not comply with the rules could be slapped with a fine starting at €150.

READ ALSO: Which parts of Germany are worst affected by coronavirus?

A spokesman for the Upper Bavaria North police told Welt that police officers had been “overrun” by the number of operations because the required minimum distance of 1.5 meters between people was not being maintained. 

People were lying in the sun and some having picnics and barbecues, according to the spokesman. Officers were deployed more than 150 times. “It was absolute madness,” said the police spokesman.

In the Upper Palatinate region, violations of the restrictions also preoccupied police who were called out 140 times. In Middle Franconia, about half of all operations were related to curfew violations.

In Southern Swabia, however, it was quieter. “We searched mountains and huts, but the bans were adhered to,” a spokesperson for the Southern Swabia Police said on Sunday.

Berliners enjoy sunshine

In Berlin, too, many people struggled to stay indoors, especially on Saturday when temperatures reached around 18C. 

Police patrolling a park in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Among other restrictions, regulations passed by the Berlin Senate stipulate that, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, people are only allowed to exercise outside alone or in pairs.

Exceptions apply to families and residents of shared apartments. However, sitting on the grass or park benches, or having barbecues or picnics, is not allowed. In addition, a minimum distance of 1.5 metres must be kept from other people.

On Saturday, parks and green spaces were busy, and police were deployed to disperse groups and tell people to go home.

There were also arrests made after more than 200 people gathered at Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg.

Another incident occurred at Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain, where about 150 people gathered in a green space. Police told people to go home and closed off the affected square.

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

The weekly market, however, was allowed to continue. Meanwhile, another 40 people gathered at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz for a demonstration and were ordered to leave.

Between Saturday morning and Sunday morning, police recorded 58 criminal charges and 108 reports of administrative offences.

Since March 14th, Berlin police have so far registered 754 violations against coronavirus measures.

Picnics and barbecues

There were also numerous violations of the 'contact restrictions' in Saarland. In the state's capital of Saarbrücken, according to the police, there were sometimes so many people on the banks of the Saar that it looked like there were no rules in place at all.

“A total of 150 to 200 people had to be ordered to leave the site,” police reported.

People enjoying the sunshine in Dortmund on Saturday. Photo: DPA

In the state of Rhineland-Palatinate there was similar behaviour. Police in Bad Bergzabern, in the Südliche Weinstraße district, said they observed “that people were meeting, be it for picnics, barbecues or small talk, where the minimum distance was not maintained”.

In Lauterecken, in the Kusel district, several people “attracted negative attention” according to police. A 23-year-old man, who was with six other people, insulted officers during an inspection, police reported. Criminal proceedings were initiated against him.

The police in Mainz also found individual violations of the contact ban but said most people adhered to the rules.

“In summary, we had a few conspicuous groups of three, but for the most part people stuck to it,” a spokesman said on Sunday morning.


Violations – (die) Verstöße

Absolute madness – absoluter Wahnsinn

Ban – (das) Verbot

Police operation/deployment – (der) Polizeieinsatz

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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.