SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

Germany ‘greatly concerned’ as coronavirus clusters grow

The rapid rise in Germany's coronavirus numbers is very worrying, the country's Robert Koch Institute for disease control said Tuesday, urging citizens to keep their distance and wear face masks.

Germany 'greatly concerned' as coronavirus clusters grow
Lothar Wieler speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday morning. Photo: DPA

 “We must prevent that the virus once again spreads rapidly and uncontrollably,” Robert Koch Institute head Lothar Wieler told reporters.

“The latest developments in the number of COVID-19 cases are of great  concern to me and all of us at the RKI,” he said.

Germany has fared better than many of its neighbours in suppressing the virus, but Wieler urged citizens not to squander the progress following a  spike numbers in recent weeks.

“It's in our hands how the pandemic evolves in Germany,” Wieler said, calling on Germans to stick with prevention measures such as washing hands and keeping a safe distance.

READ ALSO: 'The situation is worrying': Germany sees rise in coronavirus infections

Face masks should be worn not only indoors, but also outdoors, if the  recommended 1.5-metre (5-foot) distancing cannot be maintained, he said, in a  subtle update of the prior advice.

Currently people in Germany are required to wear masks in public transport and in shops and supermarkets.

Fears over a second wave

The stark warning comes as countries around the world grapple with a surge in infections, fuelling fears of a dreaded second wave.

Holidaymakers returning from abroad have stoked particular concern.

Germany's foreign ministry updated its travel advisory on Tuesday, recommending against travel to three regions in northern Spain grappling with renewed outbreaks.

“Non essential, tourist travel to the autonomous communities of Aragon, Catalonia and Navarra are currently discouraged due to renewed high levels of infections and local lockdowns,” a statement said.

The RKI chief said Germans bringing the virus back from their summer holidays was one reason for the surge in cases, but he also pointed to outbreaks happening at workplaces and open-air parties.

Germany has so far recorded a total of 206,242 coronavirus cases and 9,122 deaths.

Berlin has taken great pride in keeping the fatality numbers low, crediting its world-class health system and widespread early testing for the success.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's plans for mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning travellers

But Wieler said other countries such as Israel had shown how quickly the situation can change.

Over the last seven days, Germany has registered an average of 557 new cases a day, up from around 350 in early June.

“We don't know yet if this is the beginning of a second wave but of course  it could be,” Wieler said.

“But I am optimistic that if we follow the hygiene rules we can prevent it, it's up to us.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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. 

SHOW COMMENTS