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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel condemns ‘shameful’ coronavirus parliament protest

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday condemned as "shameful" an attempt by protesters angry at coronavirus restrictions to storm parliament, saying they had abused the right to demonstrate peacefully.

Merkel condemns 'shameful' coronavirus parliament protest
Merkel speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Several hundred people tried to get into the Reichstag building during a rally against coronavirus rules in Berlin on Saturday.

“This right to demonstrate peacefully is of course a very valuable asset even during a pandemic,” Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said at a government press conference in Berlin.

However, he said their actions were “a clear abuse”.

“The result was disgraceful images at the Reichstag which are unacceptable, anti-democrats trying to make themselves heard on the steps of our democratic parliament,” he said.

Police estimated 38,000 people, double the number expected, gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest at restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, such as wearing masks and social distancing.

A protester standing naked in front of the Reichtag on Saturday. Photo: DPA

Several hundred broke through barriers and a police cordon to climb the steps leading to the entrance to the Reichstag.

They were narrowly prevented from entering the building by police, who used pepper spray and arrested several people.

READ ALSO: Germany slams 'unacceptable' attempt to storm Reichtag

Merkel praised as “quick-witted and brave” three police officers who were seen pushing back crowds from the entrance to the Reichstag alone until reinforcements arrived.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday invited the officers to Berlin's Bellevue Palace to thank them for their work.

Steinmeier described the protesters' actions as “despicable”, adding: “We will not tolerate any anti-democratic smear campaign or disparagement of the
Federal Republic of Germany at the Bundestag.”

About 300 people were arrested in scuffles with police, in front of the Reichstag but also outside the Russian embassy, where protesters pelted police with bottles.

Resistance to coronavirus restrictions in Germany has gathered pace in recent weeks with demos attracting a diverse crowd of conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and far-right or far-left activists.

Health Minister Jens Spahn was spat on at the weekend as he tried to talk
to protesters in the northern city of Bergisch Gladbach.

Seibert condemned the incident, saying it was  “certainly not democratic dialogue”.

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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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