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HEALTH

Coronavirus deaths in Germany top 1,000 as officials say infection rate is slowing

Measures taken by officials to slow the spread of coronavirus are starting to show effect, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control said on Friday. It came as deaths topped 1,000 in Germany.

Coronavirus deaths in Germany top 1,000 as officials say infection rate is slowing
A sign in Frankfurt reads 'keep distance, stay at home and stay healthy'. Photo: DPA

“We are seeing that the spread of the virus is getting slower… it's working,” said RKI president Lothar Wieler, stressing that restrictions on public life “need to be maintained” and it was too early to hail victory.

Wieler warned, however, that the number of infections and deaths due to coronavirus will continue to increase.

During the press conference on Friday morning, Wieler also spoke out on the debate about wearing protective face masks.

As of Friday, Germany had more confirmed coronavirus cases than China, making it the fifth most affected country in the world.

At 12 noon, there were more than 84,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, according to Johns Hopkins University figures.

There have also been more than 1,100 deaths, with increasingly more cases being reported in old people's homes. More than 23,700 people are reported to have fully recovered.

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'More people will die'

Wieler said the average age of coronavirus patients in Germany is now 48-years-old, with men and women being affected almost equally.

The death rate has risen to 1.2 percent from just under one percent. “We must assume that more people will die and that this rate will continue to rise,” Wieler said. However, he was unable to say how much numbers would increase by.

Wieler also commented on the subject of protective face masks. 

This week Jena became the first German city to announce it was to introduce compulsory masks. On Wednesday, the RKI updated its website to say that more widespread use could help slow the coronavirus spread.

Experts from the public health organisation now say that as a precautionary measure to help prevent the risk of transmission, people without coronavirus symptoms should consider wearing a protective face mask.

However, on Friday Wieler said the RKI had not changed its stance.

“In order to protect yourself and others from infection, the most important thing is to keep your distance,” he said.

Protective masks “could help to protect others. But they do not help to protect the mask wearer himself,” he added.

“If you are ill, please do not go shopping – even with a textile mask,” he said. The worst thing that could happen is that masks would provide “false security,” he added.

“We always had the same strategy,” said Wieler when asked about any changes in strategy in Germany, adding that it was about “slowing down the spread”.

Age not only factor

Worldwide there have been more than 53,000 deaths from the illness. More than 95 percent of those who have died from the virus in Europe are over 60-years-old and of those, more than half are over 80-years-old.

Yet age is not the only risk factor that can lead to a serious form of the illness, said Hans Kluge, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe.  

“The mere idea that Covid-19 only affects older people is factually incorrect,” said Kluge at a press conference in Copenhagen that was broadcast on the Internet. “Young people are not invincible.”

With reporting by AFP

Member comments

  1. I didn’t get it about masks. Are they available in drag stores? Should people make masks themselves? Isn’t there still a shortage of masks in clinics?

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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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