Germany’s coronavirus tracing app alerts first users

More than 12 million people have downloaded Germany's new Corona-Warn-App so far. And for the first time since it launched last week, it has alerted users at risk of having coronavirus.

Germany's coronavirus tracing app alerts first users
The Corona-Warn-App (corona warning app). Photo: DPA

An estimated 20-30 users have so far registered on the app that they've contracted coronavirus, Spiegel reported on Thursday.

And on Tuesday night, those who had been in contact with these people over a certain period of time will have received a corresponding warning message from the app.

App users who have received this notification can get in touch with their local health authorities and be tested for coronavirus free of charge.

However, it's not mandatory – authorities have no way of knowing who's been alerted. That's because the information is not collected centrally, but instead on users' smartphones to protect privacy.

The data is encrypted and automatically deleted after two weeks.

The app was launched on June 16th, with authorities calling it a “big step” in the battle to control the spread of Covid-19.


To calculate the risk of a person getting the virus, the app takes into account how long the contact with infected persons was, how much distance there was between them, and when exactly the infected persons tested positive.

The app can only display the estimated risk of infection, so anyone who gets a warning message is advised to get tested.

Now for the science part…

The app uses bluetooth to monitor which other smartphones using the app are in the vicinity and for how long. 

If you come into contact with someone for around 15 minutes or more who also has the app, has tested positive for Covid-19 and submitted this information into the app, you'll receive the warning message.

No details, such as who tested positive or the location of where the person was, are disclosed.

Germany's app in the spotlight in UK

It came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was confronted over his claim that no country has a working contact-tracing app with news about Germany.

Labour leader Keir Starmer told Johnson that Germany's app launched last week and had 12 million downloads.

“Other countries are ahead of us. When are we going to have a working app?” Starmer said.
Media in Germany, including Welt, ran stories about the House of Commons clip.

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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.