Germany allows two households to meet as coronavirus contact ban eased

The German-wide requirement of maintaining 1.5 metres of distance between people has been extended until June 5th – but the number of people who can meet up is no longer limited to two.

Germany allows two households to meet as coronavirus contact ban eased
People in Berlin's Tempelhof airfield on April 4th 2020. Photo: DPA

People from two separate households can meet from now on, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state premiers decided on Wednesday May 6th.

The previous requirement stated that only two people (excluding families or those from the same household) could meet outside in public.

Over the past weeks, federal and state governments have been debating how to ease the lockdown and social distancing restrictions put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: How to do social distancing in Germany

Some states have already relaxed the contact ban rules: in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, for example, five people not belonging to the same household have been allowed to meet since Monday.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, Merkel supported the measure from the western state of Saarland, which allows two households to meet.

The measure was also also backed by Schleswig-Holstein's Minister President Daniel Günther, of the centre-right CDU, and Bavaria's head of government Markus Söder, of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the CSU, who said it matched up well with “the realities of life.”

During the the meeting it was also decided that all shops in Germany reopen under certain hygienic conditions, thus lifting the previous restriction of 800 square metres. 

Before the conference call, state premiers had gone public with their own plans for further easing the restrictions.

Meanwhile, a draft plan was drawn up before the meeting, detailing what life after lockdown could look like.

Merkel is expected to issue an official statement later on Wednesday. 

READ ALSO: Germany set to reopen all shops and schools in May

Member comments

  1. Is this rule to meet at public places or at home ? Can I invite 3 or 4 household over to my home ?

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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.