Fresh coronavirus protests held across Germany

Dozens of demonstrations were held across Germany on Saturday as part of a protest movement against coronavirus lockdown measures which is gaining momentum.

Fresh coronavirus protests held across Germany
A protester accosts police at a coronavirus rally in Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

The rallies have been held weekly since the start of April, swelling in recent weeks to gatherings of thousands in major German cities.

The movement sees the government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus as the beginning of an authoritarian regime or an illegal attack on individual freedoms.

Nearly 30 rallies were held in Berlin, as well as counter-demonstrations, a police spokesman told AFP.

Protests were also held across the country, including in Nuremberg, Munich and Stuttgart, though not as many as in recent weeks, mainly due to bad weather.

READ: Stuttgart bans AfD anti-coronavirus lockdown protest due to violence fears

In Hamburg, 750 people demonstrated, while an unauthorised counter-assembly of 120 people was dispersed by police with water cannon, according to a police spokeswoman.

Police across Germany made several arrests, including one of the movement's leading figures, activist Attila Hildmann, who was participating in an unauthorised demonstration of about 100 people in Berlin, according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel.

“This confinement was totally useless,” said Kathrin, a 42-year-old Berlin demonstrator who took part in a rally of about 100 people in front of the capital's city hall.

“I don't understand why we can't return to normal now,” said another protestor, Moritz, 28.

“The coronavirus has killed far less than the flu in recent years,” he added.

The protests bring together diverse groups of conspiracy theorists, extremists, anti-vaxxers and people concerned about a curtailment of civil liberties.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, a target of the demonstrations, said on Saturday that the restrictions against the coronavirus had been “necessary”.

Germany had 177,850 officially declared cases of the coronavirus as of Saturday, with 8,216 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Germany began to relax the restrictions put in place to control the spread of the virus at the beginning of May, as it saw a strong decline in new cases.

But fears remain of a second wave in the country, which has been less affected than some of its European neighbours.

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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.