German anti-mask rally smaller than expected

Protesters opposed to mask wearing and other coronavirus measures gathered at a lakeside town in southern Germany on Saturday for rallies that turned out to be smaller than planned.

German anti-mask rally smaller than expected
Archive photo from a Munich demonstration against coronavirus restrictions on September 12, 2020. Christof STACHE / AFP

The gathering in Konstanz on the border with Switzerland fell far short of the expected 15,000 people, with police saying roughly 1,000 had arrived in the area and all the events had passed off peacefully.

Similar events in August in Berlin — attended by a mix of the extreme left and right, anti-vaccination campaigners, conspiracy theorists and self-described free thinkers — had attracted roughly 20,000 people.

Germany enforces similar rules to many other European countries, obliging people to wear masks on public transport and keep 1.5 metres (five feet) apart where possible are among the most prominent.

But the country has consistently had a lower rate of infection than most of its neighbours and has managed to avoid the kind of restrictive blanket lockdowns seen in Spain and Italy.

In Konstanz, a group of protesters formed a human chain for half an hour, the centrepiece of the day of demonstrations.

“People need to think a bit more about this… and not be so afraid of nature because viruses and bacteria are part of nature,” said one participant, Ella, 51.

Police were out in force to patrol the rallies after one of the previous gatherings saw groups of protesters try to break into the parliament building in Berlin.

The rallies have also caused outrage after images showed some participants with Nazi insignia.

READ ALSO: Nearly a third of Germans 'believe in conspiracy theories': Study


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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.