Boris Johnson contrasts Germany’s lower Covid infection rates with ‘freedom-loving’ UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested on Tuesday that coronavirus infections were higher in Britain than in Italy or Germany because it was a "freedom-loving country".

Boris Johnson contrasts Germany's lower Covid infection rates with 'freedom-loving' UK
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

He was responding to criticism that the UK's contact tracing and testing programme is not working well enough in the face of a surge in cases of Covid-19.

Opposition Labour MP Ben Bradshaw asked the Prime if “the reason Germany and Italy have far lower Covid rates than us” is because their services did work.

Johnson rejected his argument, adding: “Actually there is an important difference between our country and many other countries around the world, that is that our country is a freedom-loving country.

“If you look at the history of this country over the last 300 years, virtually every advance from free speech to democracy has come from this country.

“And it is very difficult to ask the British population uniformly to obey guidelines in the way that it is necessary.”

People on social media reacted to Johnson's words with disbelief.

Germany has had more success than UK in suppressing virus

The Conservative leader was in the House of Commons to set out new restrictions to deal with a surge in virus cases.

They included early closing time for pubs and a resumption of advice for people to work from home, coupled with new penalties for breaking the rules.

“What we're saying today is that collectively the way to do this is for us all to follow the guidelines which we will strictly enforce and get the R (reproduction rate) down,” Johnson said.

The UK is currently reporting around 4,000 new cases a day, while the figure in Germany is between 1,000 and 2,000.

Germany has had more success in suppressing the virus, partly thanks to mass testing and rigorous contact tracing, although numbers are also climbing again.

Italy was the first country outside China to face a major coronavirus outbreak, but has managed to keep infection rates relatively low compared to Spain, France and Britain.

READ ALSO: Germany grapples with rising coronavirus cases as more under 35s become infected

Member comments

  1. The redefinition of the word “freedom” would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. Anti-lockdown, anti-masking wearing protesters around the world are chanting “freedom” and “human lives matter”. They are actually saying “it’s my right as a young, white person to infect older or sicker or more disadvantaged people”. Perhaps Boris means “rampant individualism” rather than freedom.

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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.