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LIVING IN GERMANY

This is where people in Germany are becoming infected with coronavirus

Where are the most common spots for contracting Covid-19 in Germany? A new study by health officials sheds some light.

This is where people in Germany are becoming infected with coronavirus
A family head to the beach in Schleswig-Holstein earlier this month. Photo: DPA

We all know there's a risk of picking up a coronavirus infection whenever we're around other people.

But where are the riskiest places? A new study by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control has investigated where people in Germany have been picking up the virus.

What are the results?

The study found private households and nursing homes are the spots where coronavirus occurs most often.

In an outbreak inside a home, there were on average 3.2 people infected at any one time. They are likely to be members of the same household or family.

The RKI said outbreaks within families and the home environment “do not necessarily lead to many subsequent cases and only have a few cases per outbreak, but obviously occur very frequently”.

The second most frequent spot for outbreaks is nursing homes. “Living together often seems to lead to transmissions,” the RKI states.

In these facilities, an outbreak infected an average of almost 19 people at one time.

According to the study, the risk of infection is also particularly high in the case of an outbreak in a refugee home – an average of 21 cases were recorded per outbreak, more than anywhere else.

READ ALSO: These are Germany's new coronavirus hotspots

Schools and hotels not hotspots

The RKI study found schools do not play a large role in coronavirus infections – at least not so far. Researchers said there have been only 31 outbreaks and 150 infections so far in schools. However, this could become more of a problem now that more children are returning to the classroom after the summer holidays.

READ ALSO: School headteachers in German state sound alarm over 'unrealistic' coronavirus measures

Restaurants, hotels and offices have also been secondary locations so far. According to the RKI, outbreaks in trains and on other forms of public transport are difficult to identify.

Meanwhile, health officials provide a positive outlook for fans of the fresh air: the risk of infection outside is relatively low, “as suggested by the lack of outbreaks in zoos and animal parks” and with only three cases registered so far after picnics.

The RKI points out that the source of the infection has not been identified with complete certainty in all cases recorded so people should remain cautious wherever they are.

Researchers looked at more than 55,000 patients for the study – that's 27 percent of all reported cases in Germany.

Vocabulary

Private households – (die) Privathaushalte

Old people's homes/retirement homes/nursing homes – (die) Altenheime

Refugee home – (das) Flüchtlingsheim

Fresh air – (die) Frischluft

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

 

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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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