Cologne’s famous Christmas market cancelled amid coronavirus concerns

The famous Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral has been cancelled for this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cologne's famous Christmas market cancelled amid coronavirus concerns

“We have cancelled the market and sent a letter to all stallholders informing them of the decision”, said Monika Flocke, the managing director of the Cologne Christmas Society.

“We spent weeks thinking about how we could organise the market in a way that would prevent spreading the virus, but ultimately we couldn’t find a solution”, said Flocke. The risk, she said, is simply too high.

The Christmas market at Roncalliplatz is always a major attraction, drawing in around five million visitors a year. But there were fears that even if the market were more spaced out and access to the stalls were restricted, crowds of people could quickly form in front of the entrance.  

“We don’t want people to fall ill and for the Cologne Christmas market to be known as a hotspot. We don’t want a repeat of what happened in Ischgl (a virus hotspot at the start of the pandemic),” said Flocke. “We can’t bear that responsibility.”

READ ALSO: Germany plans ahead for Christmas Markets amid summer heat

Germany’s beloved Weihnachtsmärkte, which form an integral part of the Christmas season, are facing significant challenges this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe each year, bringing vital revenue to hotels, restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. 

Planning is underway in many regions to ensure that the markets can open safely despite the pandemic. 

It remains to be seen as to whether Cologne’s decision will lead to cancellations in other cities.

There's also been a heated debate over whether Carnival celebrations should go ahead in some form. It's celebrated mainly in February and March but has some events starting on November 11th.


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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.