Deutsche Post plans preventative coronavirus tests for thousands of employees

Deutsche Post wants to be the first German company to give several thousand employees the opportunity to be tested for the coronavirus, regardless of if they show symptoms.

Deutsche Post plans preventative coronavirus tests for thousands of employees
Employees at a Deutsche Post package center in Groß Schwaß, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on April 8th. Photo: DPA

“We will offer significantly more than 10,000 employees the opportunity to be tested for Covid-19 as a precautionary measure, especially in larger facilities,” board member Tobias Meyer told the Rheinische Post.

The tests will be carried out systematically by occupational doctors in selected, mainly larger, operating facilities according to a risk classification. 

Along with supermarket or pharmacy employees, package deliverers have been among Germany's frontline workers in the corona crisis – dealing with an increased demand due to shops being closed and more people staying home.

Meyer announced that the company was taking the path of a “prophylactic test strategy,” or a preventative measure.

According to Meyer, employees have been tested for Covid-19 in the past, regardless of if they thought they had been infected. 

“The striking thing was that in the broad tests…we found an unexpectedly high number of infected people, but who have so far shown no symptoms of the disease,” he said. 

As a result, Deutsche Post must assume that it has more coronavirus-infected people around its premises than previously suspected, he said.

According to Meyer, Deutsche Post's company doctors will probably offer the tests in some of the 36 parcel centres and possibly also in letter distribution centres. 

The company had first tested around 4,000 employees in Germany after an infection with the coronavirus had occurred in their direct vicinity. 

The firm announced that it would pay for the tests, calculating at least €130 per test.

Germany currently has a widespread coronavirus testing strategy, carrying out around 900,000 tests a week.

The country has confirmed over 180,000 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday morning, although over 160,000 have reported themselves to have recovered. There have also been over 8,300 deaths from the virus.

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


Operating facilities – (die) Betriebsstätten

Risk classification – (die) Risikoeinstufung 

Striking – auffällig

In the vicinity – im Umkreis

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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.