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EUROPEAN UNION

Merkel goes on first trip abroad since start of coronavirus outbreak in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel has embarked on her first trip outside Germany since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to discuss how the EU can recover from the crisis.

Merkel goes on first trip abroad since start of coronavirus outbreak in Germany
Angela Merkel wearing a face mask on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

The Chancellor travelled to Brussels to meet with EU chiefs, including EU Parliament President David Sassol.

“I am delighted that my first trip abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic is taking me to Brussels and, in doing so, to the European Parliament,” said Merkel, whose country took over the rotating EU presidency for six months on July 1st.

Strict border restrictions, business closures and lockdowns were put in place across Europe to stop the spread of the virus.

Now that restrictions are easing, politicians are trying to find a way forward to keep businesses and the economy afloat.

“In the coming months we will have the great task of trying to contain the pandemic and deal with its consequences,” said Merkel. “We are facing an unprecedented situation of economic collapse, and concern about jobs.”

READ ALSO: Merkel's legacy at stake as Germany takes EU reins

In this context, Merkel reinforced her call for an ambitious recovery plan. She said that funding should not simply be invested to get back to where Europe was, “but also to take a step into the future”. She cited climate change and digital infrastructure as examples.

The leaders of the 27 EU member states will meet in Brussels on July 17th to discuss the €750 billion EU recovery plan, their first physical summit since the coronavirus lockdown began.

Merkel has urged nations to show unprecedented solidarity with hard-hit countries, warning that an uneven recovery could undermine the EU single market and end up harming stronger economies too.

But “member states' positions are still very far apart” on the matter, she admitted last week in a speech kicking off the EU-presidency.

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HEALTH

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. 

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