Germany plans massive cash injection for corona-hit Deutsche Bahn

The German government is planning a multi-billion-euro rescue package for national rail company Deutsche Bahn to help offset the effects of the coronavirus.

Germany plans massive cash injection for corona-hit Deutsche Bahn
The Deutsche Bahn logo in the sun. Photo: DPA

Demand for rail travel in Germany has plummeted in recent weeks due to restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus.

Demand for long-distance journeys fell by 90 percent in April, with local journeys down 80 percent and even freight traffic falling 40 percent, according to the document.

READ: Rise in coronavirus infections spurs concern across Germany

The state-owned Deutsche Bahn group as a whole is expecting to lose 11 to 13.5 billion euros ($11.9-$14.6 billion) between 2020 and 2024, with the rail network alone expected to account for 8.2 to 10.2 billion euros of this.

The company is hoping to find half of this sum — 4.1 to 5.1 billion euros — through cost-saving measures such as putting staff on shorter hours and scrapping bonuses.

The government will provide 75 percent of the rest, with an initial capital injection of 4.5 billion euros expected “in the coming weeks” and the rest towards the end of the year, according to a document seen by AFP.

The company's debt limit will also be increased from a current ceiling of 25.4 billion euros.

The plans must first be approved by the budget committee in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, as well as the European Commission.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bahn declined to comment on the report but pointed to a planned supervisory board meeting on Friday.

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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.