Lovesick American dons cleaner costume in bid to visit girlfriend in Germany

A 20-year-old American man tried disguising himself as a cleaner to cheat coronavirus border controls in Germany so he could see his girlfriend, police said Tuesday.

Lovesick American dons cleaner costume in bid to visit girlfriend in Germany
The man flew into Frankfurt Airport. Photo: DPA

After arriving at Frankfurt airport from Washington on Sunday, the young US national donned a high-visibility vest and picked up two bags of rubbish.

“He then tried to convince security staff that he was a cleaner and was supposed to empty the bins behind the security area,” federal police said in a statement.

However, his plan was foiled when a member of staff noticed he was not wearing a security pass and couldn't speak German.

He confessed at a police station that he was desperate to see his girlfriend and couldn't think of another way of entering the country.

Even if he had managed to reach the bins, the man would still have been in the airport's transit area, police said – meaning he would still have faced more border controls.

After being questioned, the young romantic was sent back to Washington on Monday.

Germany has imposed tough border controls to try to stop the spread of Covid-19, which has infected more than 170,000 people in the country.

READ ALSO: North Rhine-Westphalia premier calls for 'urgent reopening' of German-French border

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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.