Coronavirus: North Rhine-Westphalia to slap €250 fine on people who give fake contact details

The western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) wants to crack down on people who give false contact information for the event of a Covid-19 outbreak in restaurants, cafes or hairdressers.

Coronavirus: North Rhine-Westphalia to slap €250 fine on people who give fake contact details
A waiter stands outside of a restaurant in Cologne. Photo: DPA

People who fail to give accurate contact details to establishments to enable contact tracing face a €250 fine, reported RP Online.

NRW health minister Karl-Josef Laumann, of the centre-right Christian Democrats, announced the plans on Wednesday.

The fine is aimed at the person who gave the wrong details. However, hosts must also check the plausibility of the information on the lists, Laumann said.

The amount of the fine and further measures to contain coronavirus in Germany's most populous state will be laid out in the updated Corona Protection Law for NRW, which will come into force on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states agreed to tighten Covid-19 measures across the country.

Among the new rules are caps on the number of people at parties in badly-hit coronavirus areas, and fines for people who give false contact tracing details.

READ ALSO: 'More masks, less parties': Germany limits events and family gatherings to curb coronavirus

After the meeting, NRW state premier Laschet announced there would be higher fines in NRW. Above all, the penalty would have to be higher than the current fine of €150 for people who refuse to wear masks on public transport, he said. 

And, he said, the risk of infecting other people with the virus during meetings in restaurants, for example, is higher than on trains, so the fine needed to reflect that.

“In view of the falling temperatures, being in closed rooms for longer periods of time in autumn and winter and the imminent flu season, we must be particularly careful now,” said Laumann.

“This is particularly true in the area of leisure activities and private parties, which have recently been identified as one of the main causes of regional infections.”

The Robert Koch Institute reported 2,089 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday in Germany within 24 hours. The number of people who have died stands at 9.460.

On Saturday, 2,507 new corona infections were recorded, the highest figure since April.

Laschet said that it was in the health interest of each individual to leave his or her real name when visiting a public place. Contact tracing is “the key in the fight against the pandemic”, he said.

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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.