LATEST: German Health Minister tests positive for coronavirus

According to the Ministry of Health in Berlin, Jens Spahn, of the Christian Democrats (CDU) tested positive for the virus early Wednesday afternoon.

LATEST: German Health Minister tests positive for coronavirus
Jens Spahn at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Immediately afterwards he went into domestic isolation, a Health Ministry report said. 

“So far he has only developed cold symptoms. All contact persons will be kept informed,” it read. However, it did not provide any information on how Spahn might have been infected. 

READ ALSO: How and where coronavirus cases are rising in Germany

Photos show that Spahn attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning at the Chancellor's Office, but he was wearing a face mask. 

A government spokesperson later said that cabinet members would not have to go into quarantine, as social distancing and hygiene measures continued to be maintained. 

Spahn has been lauded for his calm handling of the virus crisis, and was once seen as a contender to take over as chancellor when Merkel stands down next year.

Spahn has welcomed stronger restrictions imposed by some states in Germany as the country tries to curb a second wave of Covid-19.

The Alpine district of Berchtesgaden in southern Germany, a beauty spot popular with tourists, on Tuesday became the first area to return to strict lockdown since the height of the pandemic earlier this year.

Last week, Germany reported its highest number of new virus cases in a single day as numbers surged across Europe.

On Wednesday Germany exceeded the coronavirus critical value of more than 50 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days on Wednesday. 

The current value on Wednesday afternoon stood at 51.3, up from 48.6 on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

READ ALSO: 'There's a danger of Covid-19 getting out of control in Germany': Bavaria orders tougher measures

Recently, top politicians had to quarantine themselves because of encounters with those who tested positive for the virus. 

On Saturday German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier also went into self-isolation following a positive coronavirus test from his bodyguard. Two tests at the head of state have since been negative.

On Monday Labour Minister Hubertus Heil of the Social Democrats (SDP) also went into quarantine because of a warning he received on Germany’s Corona-Warn-App.

At the end of September, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) also temporarily isolated themselves, after one of Maas’ bodyguard’s was infected.

As a precautionary measure, Altmaier went into quarantine after an EU minister who was present with him at an EU Council meeting in Berlin tested positive.

Back in March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went into quarantine after her doctor tested positive for the coronavirus. However, the Chancellor confirmed she was not infected following two negative test results.

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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.