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How to apply for Germany’s €1,200 a month basic income experiment

Fancy getting more than €1,000 a month without really doing anything? Here's what you need to know about Germany's new basic income project.

How to apply for Germany's €1,200 a month basic income experiment
Free money? Count us in. Photo: DPA

Germany is launching the Pilotprojekt Grundeinkommen (Basic Income Pilot Project) to find out how giving a group of people €1,200 each month for three years affects their lives.

The study creators are looking for 120 people to receive the money. But they want around a million people to apply by November. A total of 20,000 people will be randomly selected and extensively interviewed about their life situation.

From that group, 1,500 people will be selected for the three-year income experiment. A total of 120 will receive the basic income and 1,380, who won't get money, will form the comparison group.

The project announced on Friday that one million had already applied by Friday less than 72 hours after the application opened.

However, people can still apply up until the original deadline of November 10th. The researchers hope they can attract more funding to create extra spaces in the study for people to receive the basic income.

It will start in spring 2021.

READ ALSO: Germany set to launch new universal basic income trial

How do you apply?

Anyone over 18 years-old and whose primary residence is in Germany can apply for the study by filling out this online application form.

Students and benefit recipients can also apply. However, the basic income is offset against corresponding benefits (meaning it could lead to the reduction or cancellation of some benefits).

However, on the website of the site, researchers point out that in most cases the basic income is higher than the social benefits paid out by the government.

Any catches?

This study has one condition: participants must fill out a total of seven questionnaires during the three years, each of which takes about 25 minutes to complete. If the questionnaires are not filled in, the payments will be stopped. 

According to researchers, the questionnaires are crucial for scientific knowledge. They will contain questions on topics such as consumer behaviour and how people are spending their time.

“Otherwise, the basic income is absolutely unconditional: you can earn as much extra money as you want – or none at all,” the team behind it say on the website.

Participants can spend the money “on whatever they want”.

“There are no guidelines, no checks and no deductions,” say the researchers.

READ ALSO: Berlin startup offers a year with no money worries

What does the small print say?

The basic income is not taxable. It's seen as a gift from lots of individual donors, the researchers say. There is no gift tax because the amounts given per donor and participant are below the tax-free limit.

It is not subject to income tax. The money does not have to be paid back.

Meanwhile, researchers point out there is no legal claim to payment. Since it is a gift, “we cannot legally guarantee the payment of the basic income,” say the team behind it.

“However, as a pilot project for basic income, we are legally obliged to the donors to use all their payments to pay out basic income.”

The team say they plan to pay out all the money reliably but have to point out there is no legal claim to it.

For more information check out the website's FAQ page.

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Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?

A single vaccine dose has been shown to be largely ineffective against the Delta variant of Covid-19 - so German health experts are considering whether a shorter gap between the first and second dose is needed.

Should Germany shorten Covid vaccine intervals to combat Delta?
A sign directs people to the vaccination centre in Berlin's now-defunct Tegel Airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Soeren Stache

With the the proportion of Delta variant Covid cases rising in Germany, experts are currently mulling over a new strategy to combat it: shortening the intervals between the first and second dose of the vaccine.

The new approach is being considered in light of the fact that vaccinated people are likely to be protected highly infectious variant – but only if they have had all necessary doses of the vaccine. 

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

“The question is not a trivial one,” Thomas Mertens, the head of the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO), told DPA.

According to the Ulm-based virologist, there are various pros and cons to shortening the gaps between doses.

“We are currently trying to secure the necessary evidence,” he added.

So far, Stiko has been recommending longer intervals between the two vaccinations than the intervals stipulated by regulators when the vaccines were approved. 

There are good reasons for this: with AstraZeneca, for example, evidence suggests that the longer you wait between vaccines, the better immunity you have.

With limited doses of vaccines available – and ongoing supply issues – there is also an argument for providing as many people as possible with the first dose, so that as many people as possible are at least partly protected against the virus.

READ ALSO: ‘Vaccinate quickly’: German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases

For AstraZeneca, the previous advice from the panel of experts at Stiko is to allow twelve weeks to elapse between the first and second dose. For the mRNA vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – the recommended interval is six weeks.

According to the pharmaceutical regulators, however, a faster course would be possible: two BioNTech doses three weeks apart, with Moderna and AstraZeneca given four weeks apart.

In the case of the AstraZeneca vector vaccine, according to the Health Ministry, those wishing to be vaccinated are free to agree the interval individually with doctors within the permitted period of four to twelve weeks.

“A certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccine”

Helge Braun (CDU), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, told the Morgenmagazin on Thursday that the government’s main challenge was to offer all over-12s at the least one dose of the vaccine by the end of summer.

READ ALSO: ‘This can be a good summer’: Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid

Regarding the timing of the second dose, the main concern should be effectiveness, he said.

“We just know that a certain distance improves the effectiveness of the vaccination,” he told reporters. 

When pressed on whether shortening the intervals between doses was the advice of the hour, Braun said it wasn’t.

On Twitter, German immunologist Carsten Watzl pointed out that, while cases of Delta were rising as a proportion of infections due to falling infection rates overall, the actual number of infections with Delta was still stable – and may even be declining. 

This means that the longer, 12-week interval for AstraZeneca vaccinations could be still be used as long as people were fully vaccinated by autumn, he said. 

The virologist Christian Drosten has been pointing out for a long time that the first jab is not particularly effective against Delta. 

This is also the view of Watzl, who would like to see the majority of people fully protected in time for a potential fourth wave of the virus. 

“The second vaccination is urgently needed in order to be able to properly ward off the mutations,” he said in a recent interview with the German Press Agency.

“Shortening the current vaccination intervals, especially of BioNTech, of course makes sense in order to achieve complete inoculation as quickly as possible,” said the chief executive of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, on Wednesday.

“The maximum vaccine interval for BioNTech is only justified by the lack of vaccines.”

In Germany, increased shares of the Delta variant, first discovered in India, are now being recorded.

However, the number of cases caused by the mutation has only increased relatively slightly so far, while the trend for infections caused by the still dominant Alpha variant is declining more sharply.

In the future, it is expected that Delta will overtake Alpha as the dominant variant of Covid-19 in Germany.