Germany concerned coronavirus protests may lead to radicalisation

Protests against the government’s coronavirus restrictions took place in cities and towns all across Germany over the weekend.

Germany concerned coronavirus protests may lead to radicalisation
A sign reads 'stop the health fascists' at a protest in Marienplatz in Munich. Photo: DPA

Some are worried about the destabilising effect the demonstrations will have on the country’s efforts to curtail the coronavirus, while others are concerned that the protests may fuel radicalisation. 

Over the weekend, protests took place in Berlin, Frankfurt, Dortmund and several other German cities. An estimated 10,000 people attended a rally in Stuttgart, while 3,000 attended a demonstration in Munich.

Despite further relaxing lockdown restrictions on Wednesday, May 6th, protesters have called for the measures to be further relaxed, arguing that their freedoms are being curtailed. 

READ ALSO: A taste of normality as first restaurants reopen in Germany

Although the protests clearly exceeded the limit of people allowed to attend demonstrations – between 50 and 80 depending on the state – and many were not respecting social distancing and hygiene requirements, police told DPA.

They allowed them to continue as they were largely peaceful and said that breaking them up “would not be proportionate” to their actions. 

The protests have taken part in several cities throughout the entire period of the lockdown, however numbers have begun to swell in recent weeks. In Thuringia, state premier Thomas Kemmerich of the Free Democrats (FDP) attended a rally and did not wear a mask. 

‘Extremists and fake news’

Authorities are concerned about right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists mingling with the protesters in some areas. On Saturday, a group of right-wing extremists attacked journalists at a protest in Dortmund. 

Social Democratic (SPD) leader Saskia Esken said on Monday that the radicalisation of the protests could be a threat to democracy. 

“Looking away or being silent doesn’t help. We have to stand up and prove our commitment to democracy”. 

CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak agreed, saying “we must not allow extremists to use the Coronavirus crisis as a platform for their anti-democratic propaganda.”

“(While we take citizens’ concerns seriously) we are taking action against those who are now fuelling citizens concerns with conspiracy theories and spreading fake news.”

Is coronavirus again on the rise? 

The concerns have been magnified by news that the infection rate in Germany may again be increasing. 

READ: Rise in coronavirus infections spurs concern across Germany

The infection reproductions rate – the key metric used by scientists – rose above 1 on Saturday, increasing from 0.65 at the time the lockdown restrictions were announced on Wednesday. 

An infections rate of more than 1 indicates that each person with the virus infects at least one other person, thereby curtailing efforts to stop the spread. 

The Robert Koch Institute, which produces the figure, said that it could have come about due to a lag in data accumulation and does not necessarily mean that it is a consequence of the lockdown relaxations. 


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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.