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HEALTH

IN PICS: Here’s what Germany looks like during the coronavirus outbreak

As Germany enters a second week of coronavirus related restrictions, we look back at the past week to see the extent to which the country has - or in some cases has not - changed due to the pandemic.

IN PICS: Here's what Germany looks like during the coronavirus outbreak
An almost entirely deserted Brandenburg Gate on Sunday 29th March. Photo Credit: Carsten Koall / DPA

For some citizens in the capital, this week was set off to a rather chilly start as they queued – whilst respecting social distancing recommendations – outside the doctor's office between 6am and 9am. 

Across Germany, throat swabs are being taken to test for coronavirus, in addition to blood samples being drawn to detect for antibodies which may have developed to fight the virus. Such antibodies could be used to help make a vaccine.

Photo: DPA / Kay Nietfeld

However, some Berliners have decided to ignore government recommendations of staying at home unless necessary to leave or for exercise. This was particularly true over the weekend when the city saw spring highs of 18C and many took to local public spaces.

READ ALSO: 'Absolute madness': Outrage as crowds flout Germany's coronavirus rules

Berlin's Mauerpark. Photo: DPA / Christophe Gateau

On Saturday, Police officers were seen driving through the popular Mauerpark in a vehicle with a loudspeaker, making announcements that people should avoid sitting in the parks.

The government has limited group meet-ups in public. Gatherings of more than two people outside of the home have been banned in order to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Law-enforcement in Munich also faced a similar issue over the weekend, with many citizens taking to the city's parks to enjoy the sunshine.

English Garden in Munich. Photo: DPA / Sven Hoppe

Police patrolling the sprawling English Garden where enforcing the social distancing policies in order to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

It is not entirely the case that the new restrictions need to be enforced across Munich, and Germany in general. In most cases, locals are abiding by the new restrictions, say authorities.

Photo: DPA / Tobias Hase

The central square of Munich, Marienplatz (pictured above), was desolate and the stop at the local U-Bahn station – one of the most central in the city – was completely empty.

Photo: DPA/Sven Hoppe

Across Germany, initiatives have been developing to help homeless people during the pandemic. 

The homeless are particularly impacted by the current crisis as they have nowhere to self-isolate and few opportunities to practice activities such as hand washing or washing their clothes.

Photo: DPA / Peter Kneffel

In Munich, volunteers have founded a scheme for homelessness in the face of the current crisis and anyone is free to make a donation.

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

The gift fence at the Wittelsbacherbrücke has been nominated as a point that people can drop-off packages.

Photo: DPA/Bernd Thissen

Similarly in Bochum, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the donations for homeless are being organised on a fence by the local football ground, upon which citizens are hanging their packages for those in need. 

READ ALSO: How Germany is turning to the South Korean model in coronavirus fight

Even state parliaments across the nation also witnessed variations to the norm due to the virus throughout the week.

Photo: DPA

Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addressed the state parliament on Tuesday in Düsseldorf, all of whom sat at least two seats apart from each other in order to maintain the 1.5 metre social distancing guidelines. 

Photo: DPA/Henning Kaiser

Another take on social distancing – at least seen from the above image – is displayed by paddle boarders in Cologne, getting their daily outdoor fresh air and exercise in a rather creative way.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How to do social distancing in Germany

Social distancing has not been the only method of preventing the spread of the virus seen in Germany.

Photo: DPA/Peter Steffen

One local market in Hanover put up plastic film sheets at face level in order to prevent the spread of the virus through coughing or sneezing.

Germany has also seen a significant drop in traffic on some of its busiest roads over the past week.

Photo: DPA/Markus Scholz

Hamburg's most important connecting road between the East and West of the city – Ludwig-Erhard-Straße – has been transformed in a matter of weeks.

The above pictures, which were taken at the same time of day and only three weeks apart, demonstrates the complete change in the traffic flow.

Authorities in Hamburg were also prepared to intensify measures over the weekend. However, it appears that most citizens were respectful of the new restrictions and stayed at home – even in the sunny weather.

Photo: DPA/Christian Charisius

The central Jungfernstieg on Friday seemed pretty much deserted, other than a scattering of people and police patrolling on horseback.

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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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