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HEALTH

US denies ‘Wild West’ swoop on Berlin-bound masks at airport

The US embassy in Germany on Monday denied a claim that a Berlin-bound shipment of protective masks had been "confiscated" by the United States, calling it disinformation designed to stoke division.

US denies 'Wild West' swoop on Berlin-bound masks at airport
The company Ber-Bek in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania lays out masks ready to be transported on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

“The United States Government did not take any action to divert any…supplies that were destined to Germany nor did we have any knowledge of such a shipment,” an embassy spokesman told AFP.

READ ALSO: Modern-day piracy: German official says US swooped on masks at airport

“We remain concerned about pervasive attempts to divide international efforts through unsourced, unattributed disinformation campaigns,” he added.

Berlin's regional minister of the interior Andreas Geisel on Friday said 200,000 highly sought-after FFP2 masks, made by an American firm in China and destined for use by Berlin police, were “confiscated” in Bangkok.

He accused the US of using “methods from the Wild West” and of carrying out an “act of modern-day piracy”.


Geisel doubled down on the accusations on Monday morning, insisting that the masks had been redirected to the US.

“The fact is that we ordered a delivery and paid for it… our protective masks ended up in the USA. That is not OK,” he told public broadcaster ZDF.

German newspaper Bild said the shipment contained masks made in China by US firm 3M, one of the leading brands in the sector.

The company came under fire from US President Donald Trump last week, who claimed on Twitter that his administration “hit 3M hard today after seeing what they were doing with their Masks”.

After a late start in procuring urgently needed protective gear, Trump recently invoked the Defense Production Act to make US firms divert resources to the battle against the pandemic.

Geisel faced criticism from media and opposition lawmakers in Berlin for failing to provide proof the US had grabbed the masks.

“The Berlin Senate is looking for a scapegoat to cover up its own inability to procure protective equipment,” said conservative regional MP Burkard Dregger.

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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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