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HEALTH

‘A pandemic knows no holidays’: Germany extends coronavirus curbs on public life

Germany will extend its current restrictions on public life to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus by two weeks until April 19th, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.

'A pandemic knows no holidays': Germany extends coronavirus curbs on public life
The near-empty Görlitzer Park in central Berlin on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: DPA

“We assessed the situation today and confirmed that the restrictions…will be valid up to and including April 19th. We will reassess the situation on the Tuesday after Easter,” Merkel said in a telephone conference following a video meeting with regional state premiers.

German authorities on March 22nd ordered restaurants shut and banned gatherings of more than two people to slow the spread of COVID-19.

READ ALSO: Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread

The restrictions were initially slated to last two weeks, but will now be extended until April 19, to coincide with the end of the Easter school holidays.

Certain individual states including Bavaria – Germany's largest state – had already announced an extension, and others will now follow suit in the coming days.
 
 
 
Merkel noted that the lengthened period of curbs means families may not be able to visit each other during Easter celebrations in Germany.
 
But she warned that a “pandemic does not recognise holidays”.
 
The government has repeatedly rejected calls to relax the measures in recent days, with Merkel calling on the public to “be patient” in a podcast last weekend.
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing the restrictions on March 22nd. Photo: DPA
 
On Wednesday, the Chancellor reiterated that it was “much too early to think about loosening the restrictions”.
 
“It would be much worse to do it too early, and we are still very far away from what we need to achieve,” she said.

She pointed out that the number of infections was still rising sharply in Germany, and said that any reassessment of the measures would be based on the advice of the Robert Koch Institute for public health (RKI), which is leading the country's fight against the virus.

Merkel said that the contact restrictions were being observed well. On the Tuesday after Easter, or April 14th, the federal and state governments would reassess the situation based, among other things, on data from the RKI.
 
As of Wednesday at 5pm, there were over 73,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany and 815 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
 
 
Chancellor in self-isolation
 
Merkel is currently working from home, like millions of other Germans, after coming into contact with a doctor who was diagnosed with COVID-19.
 
The Chancellor has tested negative for coronavirus three times, however, her spokesman on Monday said she would continue to carry out duties from her home in the coming days.

While in isolation, Merkel has held government meetings via video link.

On Saturday she released an audio message thanking Germans for heeding the country's unprecedented confinement measures and avoiding unnecessary social contacts.

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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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