Two German states to test all meatpacking workers after coronavirus outbreaks

Two German states, including the country’s largest, will test all meatpacking workers for coronavirus after outbreaks at several slaughterhouses.

Two German states to test all meatpacking workers after coronavirus outbreaks
Photo: DPA

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, an estimated 18,000-20,000 meatpacking workers will be tested.

Health authorities in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein have also planned to test all abattoir workers.

READ: German towns to reimpose shutdowns over coronavirus clusters

The move comes after an outbreak of Covid-19 was detected at a meatpacking plant in Coesfeld, near Münster. 

READ: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Employees at the West Fleisch processing plant were tested, with 151 out of a possible 200 testing positive for the virus. 

In total, 13 people from the plant have been hospitalised while the rest of those are reportedly suffering only from minor symptoms. 

Further outbreaks were detected in the town of Oer-Erkenschwick, where 33 out of a possible 1,250 workers tested positive, and in the town of Bad Bramstedt, where 109 workers tested positive. 

In addition to the testing, the NRW state government will delay the relaxation of lockdown measures in Coesfeld. 

Despite the delay, schools and day care facilities will again be allowed to open on May 11th – the official date for relaxing lockdowns across the rest of the country. 


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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.