Second German minister quarantines as daily Covid-19 cases top 2,000

A second German cabinet has gone into quarantine after being exposed to a person infected with the coronavirus, amid a rise in cases in the country.

Second German minister quarantines as daily Covid-19 cases top 2,000
Altmeier speaking in Berlin earlier in September. Photo: DPA

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who hosted a gathering of EU trade ministers on Monday, tweeted that “an employee of a minister present at the meeting in Berlin tested positive for corona.”

“As a precautionary measure, I went into quarantine at home,” he tweeted late Wednesday.

Altmaier added that a first Covid-19 test had come back negative and that he was doing “very well.”

It comes after Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Wednesday self-isolated after one of his security staff tested positive.

READ ALSO: German Foreign Minister quarantines over coronavirus exposure fear

Maas also returned a negative test.

At the height of the pandemic in March, Chancellor Angela Merkel quarantined for 14 days after seeing a doctor who tested positive for the coronavirus, but all of her subsequent tests came back negative.

Although Germany has fared better than many of its neighbours in managing the pandemic so far, cases are climbing again, with the number of daily new infections now reaching heights last seen in the spring.

On Thursday, Germany reported 2,143 new cases and 19 more deaths, according
to the disease control agency Robert Koch Institute.

It is the third time in a month that the number of new cases has exceed 2,000 in a day.

On August 22nd there were 2,034 new cases, and on Saturday September 19th the highest number of new cases (2,297) since April were registered. 

“After a temporary stabilisation of the number of cases, a further increase in transmissions in the German population is currently being observed”, said the RKI.

Tighter measures to control the spread of the virus are starting to come into force in some parts of the country.

Munich — Germany's third-largest city — has made face masks compulsory in some busy outdoor spaces and is considering a targeted alcohol ban.

Germany late on Wednesday added a slew of popular destinations, including
Copenhagen, Dublin and the United Arab Emirates, to its list of foreign locations that require travellers to self-isolate or get tested when returning to Germany.

READ ALSO: Germany declares coronavirus 'high risk' areas in more than half of EU countries

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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.