Coronavirus: Germany plans to test everyone admitted to hospitals and nursing homes

Germany is set to introduce a new preventative coronavirus testing regime for the country’s nursing homes and hospitals. Everyone will be tested on arrival, even those without symptoms.

Under the new scheme, Germany plans to test everyone who is admitted to a hospital or a nursing home, even if they are not displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. 

In an interview with Welt on Friday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said he wanted testing upon admission to nursing homes, hospitals and care facilities to be ‘the norm’. 

“My goal is to submit a regulation in May that will enable preventive tests in hospitals and nursing homes,” Spahn said. 

“When patients and residents are admitted or transferred, Covid-19 tests should be the norm.”

Spahn also said that tests should be carried out as a precautionary measure for all staff, residents and patients in the event of an infection in nursing homes and care facilities.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn. Photo: DPA

Spahn said that Germany had enough capacity to carry out the additional tests – and that the government would require stututory health insurance companies to foot the bill. 

“Last week, 425,000 tests were carried out across Germany. But the test capacity is more than twice as large.”

READ ALSO: German coronavirus testing capacity increases to 900,000 a week

Germany’s parliament passed a law earlier in May which would require health insurance companies to pay for coronavirus tests – even if the tested person had no symptoms. 

Germany to establish medical equipment reserve

Spahn also said that Germany would set up a reserve of essential medical equipment, which would ensure supply for several months in the event of an outbreak or pandemic. 

“The reserve will ensure security (of supply) for several months, so that we do not get in a situation like that in February and March where even medical staff do not have enough masks and gloves.”

Despite the early shortages, Germany is currently experiencing an over supply of personal protective equipment – and would stop deliveries as a result, according to Spahn.

“We are already so far that several statutory health insurance associations say: our yard is full, please do not deliver anymore,” he said.

“As a result, we will end daily deliveries to the federal states and statutory health insurance associations in the middle of the year.”

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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.