Berlin opts for tougher coronavirus contact rules over Christmas

Berlin is implementing the new coronavirus measures – but contact restrictions will be even tighter in the capital over Christmas compared to other parts of Germany.

Berlin opts for tougher coronavirus contact rules over Christmas
Restaurants in Germany, including Berlin, are closed. Photo: DPA

States across Germany are putting in place the new coronavirus measures agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and states.

However, due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Berlin, contact restrictions will be tougher .

Tougher contact restrictions

Public life in Germany has been largely restricted since the beginning of November. Restaurants, bars, cultural and leisure facilities are closed, while social contacts have to be cut down. However, schools and Kitas remain open, as do shops.

Berlin is particularly affected, with new Covid-19 cases topping more than 1,000 per day. For this reason, the Berlin Senate decided on new coronavirus measures, which go beyond the agreement reached by Merkel and the states on Wednesday.

According to the Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, the rules are to remain in force until January. Before Christmas, however, the Senate will review to see whether the measures are appropriate.

What are the contact rules?

The Senate urges the capital's population to reduce physical social contacts to the “absolutely necessary minimum”. The minimum distance of 1.5 metres should be maintained whenever possible.

In buses and trains, or in services such as at the hairdresser or in Kindergartens, the distance may be less but masks should be worn in this case.

In addition, the Senate has imposed firm contact restrictions for private meetings outdoors and indoors. From December 1st, gathering outside and indoors is only permitted:

  •     alone/ with members of your own household
  •     or with people from a maximum of one other household
  •     A maximum of five people may meet in both cases
  •     Children up to 12 years of age are excluded

 It changes during the festive period:

  • From December 23rd to January 1st, people in Berlin can meet with a maximum of five other people. No specifications were made as to how many households they can come from
  • Children up to the age of 12 are not included in this rule

That differs from the national line: in other federal states (unless they agree otherwise), meetings with a maximum of 10 people are allowed between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and children up to the age of 14 are not included.

New Year’s rules – these are in line with the restrictions agreed by the government and states.

  • Setting off fireworks in the streets is not recommended, and the Senate may ban it in busy public places
  • However, the sale, purchase and setting off of fireworks is not banned

The regulations are to be published in full on Saturday by the Berlin Senate.

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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.