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

The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany remains high. We take a look at where new cases are.

Germany grapples with rising coronavirus cases as more under 35s become infected
People walking in Marienplatz in Munich. From Thursday visitors to this area will have to wear a face mask. Photo: DPA

The public health authorities in Germany on Tuesday reported 1,821 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours.

And fresh figures highlight how more young people are picking up the virus.

Half of new cases in Bavaria are under 35s

In Bavaria, which is tightening its coronavirus restrictions this week in a bid to slow down the spread, every second new case is someone aged 15 to 34-years-old.

Figures from the State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) show 47 percent of all reported infections in the last seven days come from this age group.

“At this age there is often contact with a large number of people – and the risk of infection is underestimated in one case or another,” said state health minister Melanie Huml of the centre-right Christian Social Union (CSU) in Munich on Tuesday.

According to the LGL, 29 percent of all reported infections in the past seven days are accounted for by the group of young adults aged 20 to 30 years-old alone.

“The increase in corona infections in Bavaria can still be attributed in part to the many summer travel returnees from risk areas,” said Huml.

“But careless behaviour that increases the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 can also be a reason.”

As The Local has been reporting, authorities in Munich are worried about replacement parties held to celebrate Oktoberfest, which was cancelled earlier this year.

Huml asked for caution and consideration. She urged people to think about their own protection and that of others, and to adhere to distance rules.

READ ALSO: 'Numbers are too high': Munich tightens coronavirus rules and contact restrictions

Bavaria has reported around 65,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

What's happening elsewhere in Germany?

There are also worries about rising rates in Berlin. The Berlin Senate introduced a traffic light warning system in a bid to keep checks on the coronavirus epidemic in the capital.

Currently two of the three warning lights representing the reproduction (R0) number and the amount of new infections have moved from green to amber. The other indicator included in the traffic light system, which is still green, is the occupancy rate of intensive care beds.

The R number in Berlin is 1.52 at the moment, meaning one person with coronavirus goes on to infect around 1.5 others. 

With a 7-day incidence of 21 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, cases are rising fast.

In the popular central Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district the number – 51 – is significantly higher. It's above the threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 people in seven days. Coronavirus measures in Germany have to be tightened when this threshold is crossed.

The Senate is now discussing further measures with the particularly affected districts of Mitte, Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. Berlin will also discuss tightening the obligation to wear masks in public places like in Munich.

There have been around 13,100 cases in Berlin since the start of the outbreak.

READ ALSO: 'Take coronavirus seriously': Berlin mum makes plea after 30 days in coma

In some cities across Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), including Cologne, Hamm, Remscheid, Gelsenkirchen and the Oberbergischer district there are also rising cases. That means residents there could face restrictions on public life soon.

In NRW there's been around 65,200 confirmed cases since the outbreak began.

What's the big picture?

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), at least 274,158 people in Germany are confirmed to have picked up the Sars-CoV-2 virus since the beginning of the pandemic, and 9,396 people have died.

On Saturday, 2,297 new Covid-19 infections were recorded in Germany, the highest figure since April. “After a temporary stabilisation of case numbers at an increased level, a further increase in transmissions in the population in Germany can currently be observed,” wrote the RKI in its situation report on Monday.

The peak in the number of new infections reported daily had been more than 6,000 at the end of March/beginning of April. The number then fell and then rose again in July. In August the number of cases topped 2,000 (2,034) once. The number of new infections detected also depends on the number of people being tested.

According to RKI estimates on Monday, the reproduction rate, or R-value for short, was 1.06 in Germany (previous day: 1.22). This means that someone with coronavirus goes on to infect on average slightly more than one other person.

The R-value reflects the course of infection about one and a half weeks before. Experts aim to keep it under 1 but it is subject to fluctuation.

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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.