‘We’re the only ones still willing’: Germany to take up to 500 children from Greek camps

Germany will take in up to 500 unaccompanied minors from Greek migrant camps over the coming weeks, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, and urged other EU countries to follow suit.

'We're the only ones still willing': Germany to take up to 500 children from Greek camps
German foreign minister Heiko Maas speaking at a press conference in February. Photo: DPA

“We said (to the Greek authorities and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees) that we want to take in between 350 and 500 children in the next few weeks,” Maas said in an interview with the RTL/ntv broadcaster.

The minister said he hoped other countries would follow suit. “We want to set an example here.”

Germany announced on Tuesday that it would take in 50 children from migrant camps on the Greek islands of Lesbos and Chios.

READ ALSO: Refugees integrating 'faster than expected' into Germany's labour market

The transfers could begin next week, the interior ministry said in a statement.

The children and adolescents, who arrived at the camps without their parents, “will at first be placed in quarantine for two weeks,” before being housed in various regions, the ministry said.

Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers live in dire circumstances in Greek camps, and conditions have worsened recently due to outbreaks of the coronavirus.

France, Portugal, Finland, Lithuania, Croatia and Ireland are also part of an EU programme announced at the beginning of March to take in some of the
1,600 vulnerable minors in Greek camps.

However, Maas said they were putting their plans on hold because of border
restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus crisis.

“Apart from Luxembourg, we are the only ones who are still willing to accept minors,” he said.

Luxembourg has already agreed to take in 12 minors.

German Development Minister Gerd Mueller has called the camps a “disgrace”,
urging Brussels to act to avert a “catastrophe”.

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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.