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CHRISTMAS

Frankfurt cancels Christmas market as infections rise

The German city of Frankfurt has become the latest to cancel its traditional Christmas market as the nation struggles to halt an alarming rise in coronavirus infections.

Frankfurt cancels Christmas market as infections rise
The Frankfurt Christmas market as it opened in 2019. Photo: Daniel Roland/AFP
“Frankfurt is pulling the corona emergency brake,” the bestselling Bild daily wrote after city officials made the decision in emergency talks late Saturday.
   
The Frankfurt “Weihnachtsmarkt” is one of Germany's most popular Christmas markets and usually attracts more than two million visitors who come to sip mulled wine, nibble on roasted chestnuts and shop for seasonal trinkets among a cluster of wooden chalets.
   
“Our goal remains to avoid another lockdown,” Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann said in a statement.
   
The worsening pandemic has already forced a slew of other German cities, including Berlin, Düsseldorf and Cologne, to announce they are scrapping or severely curtailing their Christmas markets, although major ones are still going ahead in Munich and Nuremberg.
   
Germany is home to some 2,500 Christmas markets each year that kick off the festive season in late November and are much loved by locals and tourists alike.
   
They draw about 160 million domestic and international visitors annually who bring in revenues of three to five billion euros ($3.6-5.9 billion), according to the BSM stallkeepers' industry association.
 
 
Building attacked
 
Although Germany coped relatively well with the first wave of coronavirus, case numbers have risen rapidly in recent weeks, as they have across Europe. The country on Sunday reported more than 11,000 new cases over the past 24
hours, bringing the total number since the start of the pandemic to 429,181.
   
Sunday marked that fourth day in a row that new cases crossed the 10,000 mark.
   
Germany has recorded 10,032 coronavirus deaths to date, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control.
   
Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to drastically cut back on socialising to curb the spread of the virus and authorities have introduced stricter rules on private and public gatherings.
   
Berlin police tweeted that they had to break up a “fetish party” of some 600 people on Saturday evening because the venue was too small for the crowd to social distance.
   
On Sunday, police in the capital said a building belonging to the RKI was attacked by unknown persons overnight who threw “incendiary devices” and bottles at the building, causing a small fire and breaking a window.
   
A security guard was able to put out the flames and no one was hurt,according to the statement.
   
Police have opened an investigation into attempted arson and have not ruled out a political motive, given the agency's high-profile role in communicating about the virus.

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HEALTH

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. 

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