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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Dozens of anti-lockdown protesters arrested in Berlin

German police arrested dozens of protesters in Berlin on Saturday for flouting the coronavirus lockdown measures they were demonstrating against.

Coronavirus: Dozens of anti-lockdown protesters arrested in Berlin
Photo: DPA

About 1,000 people turned out for the rally, which has become a weekly event in the German capital. Saturday's protest attracted mainly far-left activists but there were also right-wing supporters and members of other fringe groups.

Police put up barriers around Rosa Luxemburg square, where the protesters were headed, leaving the participants to gather in nearby roads.

The protest “is not in line with the rules” in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, police said on Twitter, telling those taking part to disperse.

Some of the demonstrators wore T-shirts accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel of “banning life” while others simply called for “freedom”. Others brandished placards bearing slogans such as “Stop the pharmaceutical lobby”.

The protest was unauthorised as a result of emergency rules in Berlin banning gatherings of more than 20 people. The protest organisers' website called for “an end to the state of emergency” and played down the threat posed by the virus.

Public discontent with the confinement rules has been growing gradually in Germany, as in other countries, though Merkel's popularity remains high.

She has received plaudits for her management of the health crisis which has seen Germany's COVID-19 toll — 5,500 according to an AFP tally — remain significantly lower than in Italy, Spain, France and Britain where the death tolls have all risen above 20,000.

Opposition to the lockdown measures is being led by the far-right, the main opposition force in the German parliament.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party accuses the government of exaggerating the risk posed by the virus and has called for the immediate reopening of all businesses.

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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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