Majority of Germans are social distancing but don’t support nationwide coronavirus lockdown

A new ongoing study has found how people in Germany are drastically changing their lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Majority of Germans are social distancing but don't support nationwide coronavirus lockdown
A woman in Neubiberg, Bavaria, wearing a protective face mask while shopping. Photo: DPA

The University of Mannheim has been asking people in Germany how their daily lives have changed since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in a bid to find out the psychological, economic and social effects of the crisis.

Researchers, led by data scientist Annelies Blom, have found that the frequency with which people meet friends has decreased significantly in recent weeks.

Before measures to stem the spread of coronavirus began being introduced in early March, 42 percent of people said they were meeting with other people several times a week. However, between March 25th and 31st that figure had dropped to just five percent.

According to the “Corona Study”,which aims to provide daily reports on everyday life in the time of coronavirus, 69 percent of Germans have now switched to “no longer meeting friends at all” and are following the “social distancing” rules.

Germany banned gatherings of more than two on March 22nd as part of wide-ranging social contact restrictions.

Blom told Spiegel: “On the one hand, it is good that people are following the guidelines, but as a social researcher, I am also somewhat concerned about this, because such a quarantine situation can have negative consequences for mental and physical health.”


Meanwhile, 95 percent of respondents to the study said they supported a ban on events, while 92 percent accepted the closure of public institutions.

However, the study found people were much more critical of nationwide lockdowns, such as those seen in Italy, Spain and France.

This kind of action would only be acceptable in Germany for 41 percent of those questioned, the survey found.

“But that could also change with the actual introduction of the measure,” said Blom. “So if it were decided that a general curfew was necessary, the population could change their opinion and then consider it appropriate.”

Surveys carried out between March 20th and 23rd showed that almost 60 percent of Germans were continuing to work regularly “on site” – despite calls for as many people as possible to work from home – while only 21.2 percent have moved to a home office.

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

Meanwhile, 6.1 percent of those surveyed are now in Kurzarbeit – a measure that sees the government top up the pay of workers placed on shorter hours by their employer – and 12.7 percent have been released from work, either with or without pay.

Researchers are surveying thousands of people online in the representative study to find out how they are dealing with the crisis. They began the surveys on March 20th.

On average, around 500 people take part in the study every day.


Everyday life – (der) Alltag

General curfew or lockdown – (die) allgemeine Ausgangssperre

Ban on events – (das) Veranstaltungsverbot

Coronavirus outbreak – (der) Corona-Ausbruch

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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.