Germany to close bars and restaurants as Merkel unveils new round of Covid-19 shutdowns

Germany on Wednesday ordered a new round of shutdowns for the cultural, leisure as well as food and drink sectors, in a bid to halt a surge in new coronavirus infections.

Germany to close bars and restaurants as Merkel unveils new round of Covid-19 shutdowns

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“We need to act and we need to act now,” Angela Merkel said at a press conference on Wednesday evening that was also attended by Berlin mayor Michael Müller and Bavarian leader Markus Söder.

“These are tough new restrictions,” she said adding that Germany will offer €10 billion euros in aid to shutdown-hit sectors.

Restaurants, bars, theatres and concert halls will all be closed for the entire month.

The tough restrictions, which will kick in from Monday, November 2nd, and last to the end of the month, will also limit the number of people gathering to a maximum of ten individuals from two households.

“Our most important instrument against the virus is tracing infections,” said the Chancellor. But she added that the health agencies had reached their limits and were no longer able to trace cases. “For this reason we need to all have a national effort during the month of November.”

“We are now at a point where on average nationally, we no longer know where 75 percent of infections come from,” she added.

Merkel also promised an “extraordinary financial package” to help the gastronomy and hotel industry which will be forced to close for four weeks.

The Chancellor acknowledged that the measures were “strict” and “arduous” but she noted that at the current rate of new infections, “we will reach the limits of the health system”.

The number of new cases has doubled from a week earlier, while the number of people in intensive care has also doubled in the last 10 days, she noted.

“The curve must be flattened again… so that contact tracing can be once again carried out,” she said.

The main points

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars will be closed along with theatres and cinemas.
  • Only two households are allowed to meet in public and with a limit of 10 people
  • “Groups of people celebrating in public places, in apartments as well as private areas are unacceptable in view of the serious situation in our country,” the resolution agreed between Merkel and state leaders states.
  • All overnight stays for tourists are banned
  • Citizens are asked to avoid all unnecessary travel, with overnight stays to be open only for “non-tourism purposes”
  • Concerts and other cultural events are not prohibited
  • Professional sport including Bundesliga matches will have to be played behind closed doors
  • Swimming pools and all other amateur sports facilities will be closed
  • Schools and child care will stay open
  • Shops will stay open, but with a rule of one customer per 10 square metres
  • Massage, beauty and tattoo studios all have to close

'Lockdown light'

As The Local has been reporting, the government has proposed a 'lockdown light' for most of November in a bid to 'save Christmas'.

Müller said that “If we watch now, we will not be able to help many people,. This is very about health and human life.”

The Berlin mayor said that intensive care units in Berlin were now as full as they had been at the start of the pandemic in March.

According to insiders, Merkel calculated that if there was no reduction in social contacts by the population, 28,000 infections per day would be reached within a week – double the current figure.

The aim is to “break the infection momentum, so that over Christmas, there will be no far-reaching restrictions with regards to personal contact and economic activities,” according to a draft of the measures seen by AFP.

“Family and friends should be allowed to meet under corona-conditions over Christmas. This requires a common effort now, just like in spring,” it added, in reference to the measures also imposed back then.

Health Minister Jens Spahn, who is working from home after testing positive for the virus, said urgent action was required.

 “If we wait until the intensive care beds are full, then it will be too late,” he told regional broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk.


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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.