Germany sees ‘signs of change’ in Covid-19 situation

Health Minister Jens Spahn says there are signs that the coronavirus situation in Germany is improving – but there is work to be done yet.

Germany sees 'signs of change' in Covid-19 situation
Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn. Photo: DPA

“What we are seeing is that the momentum has slowed down considerably in the last few days,” said Spahn on Wednesday to German broadcasters.

“It is still rising, but it is rising less strongly. This is encouraging at first, but it is not enough.”

Spahn said that after two or three days of positive development it's still too early to speak of a “turnaround”.

“These are definitely signs of change, but not yet a trend reversal,” the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician said.

The Minister also referred to the increasing number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units and the rising number of deaths. In order to get a grip on this, the infection figures have go go down.

“We have to reduce the figures and we have to reduce them significantly. Only if they remain low for a longer period of time will the target be reached,” he said.

READ ALSO: How close is Germany to receiving a Covid-19 vaccination?

What are the latest numbers?

According to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Wednesday, 18,487 new corona infections were reported nationwide within 24 hours.

That is 3,155 more cases than on Tuesday. Compared to Wednesday last week, the figure is slightly higher. At that time the number of reported new infections was 17,214. A record peak was reached on Saturday with 23,399 cases reported.

The nationwide 7-day incidence of new corona infections has fallen slightly for the first time since the decision to impose a new lockdown.

While the incidence rate was 94 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days on the day of the lockdown decision at the end of October, it has risen steadily since then, reaching a peak of 139.1 on Tuesday.

Now the increase has stopped for the first time, falling slightly to 138.1 on Wednesday. The government's aim is to bring the incidence rate back down to below 50.

The number of deaths related to the virus rose by 261 to a total of 11,767 by Wednesday. There were 154 deaths reported within 24 hours on Tuesday. The RKI estimates that around 454,800 people have now recovered from Covid-19.

There is a partial shutdown across Germany during November in a bid to get the coronavirus numbers down. Restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms and cultural facilities are all closed until the end of the month, and contact restrictions are in place.

EXPLAINED: What closes and stays open across Germany's states?

Christmas holidays may be extended in NRW

Meanwhile, Armin Laschet, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, has proposed extending the Christmas holidays in the western state. In return, the two days off for carnival would be cancelled.

This is a “conceivable possibility”, Laschet said on WDR television.

In concrete terms this would mean that the school holidays would not begin on December 23rd – but on Monday December 21st.

The state government will discuss this with various associations, said Laschet. The idea is that this would limit contacts more before Christmas.

“However, this does not provide any security either,” stressed Laschet.

Spahn said this idea was a welcome part of the debate.  He did however stress that there is no scope for larger Christmas celebrations this year.

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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.