Germany to lift quarantine requirement for travellers from bordering countries

Over the next few days, Germany’s 16 states want to lift their general quarantine rules introduced due to the coronavirus pandemic for travellers from neighbouring countries.

Germany to lift quarantine requirement for travellers from bordering countries
Archive photo shows cars passing the German border into Aachen. Photo: DPA

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state which shares a border with Belgium and the Netherlands, the quarantine obligation was already lifted on Friday.

The Interior Ministry is currently working on a new regulation for all of the country's states, the ministry said on Friday. 

At the moment, several German states require that anyone entering Germany from a neighbouring European country must go into self-quarantine for 14 days. 

READ ALSO: Germany to order all arriving travellers to self-quarantine

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) made a recommendation to relax the current quarantine rules and to apply them only to people who had previously been in non-neighbouring countries. 

However, each state can set their own rules.

North Rhine-Westphalia's state premier Armin Laschet (CDU) said that the move would be “sign for good neighbourliness”.

“This creates legal clarity and is a great relief for people, especially in the border regions, and sends a signal to our domestic economy”, explained Laschet. 

Laschet had repeatedly advocated quarantine relaxation to help neighbouring countries get back on their feet through the exchange of commerce and tourism.

“In the medium term, this also includes making cross-border tourism possible again. This is only possible without quarantine regulations”, said Laschet.

On Tuesday, the Higher Administrative Court of Lower Saxony had overturned the quarantine requirement following an emergency application by a holiday home owner, thus sparking a Germany-wide discussion. 

Next week, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) wants to discuss with colleagues from popular holiday destinations how to gradually ease travel restrictions.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) wants to open the borders with France, Austria and Switzerland on June 15th at the earliest.

Border traffic to Luxembourg is to be normalised this Saturday.

READ ALSO: Germany aims to end coronavirus border controls by June 15th

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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.