LATEST: Germany passes one million mark for number of coronavirus cases

Germany on Friday saw its total number of coronavirus infections pass one million, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control reported.

LATEST: Germany passes one million mark for number of coronavirus cases
People queuing for Glühwein in Hamburg on Thursday. Photo: DPA

The institute recorded more than 22,000 new daily cases, pushing the country's total beyond the one million mark.

This brings the number of cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic to 1,006,394.

However, many infections are likely to remain undetected, partly because people are developing no or hardly any symptoms. Last Friday on November 20th, a peak in daily new infections was reached with 23,648 cases reported to the RKI.

Germany had largely contained the spread of the virus in the spring but has been hit hard by a second wave of infections.

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care nationwide has soared from just over 360 in early October to more than 3,500 last week.

The most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has recorded more than a quarter of all cases, ahead of Bavaria's 198,000 confirmed infections. Berlin has seen 62,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.

The number of deaths related to the virus rose by 426 to a total of 15,586 by Friday, a record since the beginning of the pandemic. The RKI estimates that around 696,100 people have now recovered.

EXPLAINED: Eight things to know about Germany's new extended partial shutdown


How has the pandemic unfolded in Germany?

The first coronavirus infections in Germany were confirmed by the Bavarian company Webasto at the end of January. At the end of February, Baden-Württemberg and NRW reported their first cases, and on March 10th Saxony-Anhalt became the last German state to report its first case.

As the numbers skyrocketed across the board, a lockdown came into effect to control the infection situation in March.  That was eased and during the summer there were comparatively few new cases of coronavirus in Germany.

At the end of September, in October and the beginning of November, the number of newly reported infections rose rapidly once again, but the exponential growth has stopped and recently settled at a high plateau.

Contrary to expectations, the partial lockdown in force since the beginning of November, with the closure of pubs and restaurants, has not lead to a significant reduction in infections. The aim of it was to 'save Christmas', authorities said.

The so-called 7-day incidence – i.e. the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants and week – has been fluctuating around 140 for more than two weeks.

Extended shutdown in Germany while world battles Covid

Chancellor Angela Merkel this week announced that Germany was extending its current shutdown and tightening restrictions through to early January unless there is a dramatic drop in infections.

IN DETAIL: Germany extends coronavirus shutdown and tightens restrictions

Rules will ease over the festive period to accommodate Christmas and New Year celebrations, allowing meetings of up to 10 adults from December 23rd to New Year's Day.

Europe's biggest economy has shuttered restaurants, bars, sporting facilities and cultural venues, though schools and shops remain open.

Like much of the continent, Germany is battling a resurgence of a pandemic that shows little sign of retreating.

Globally, more than 60 million infections and 1.4 million deaths have been recorded since the new coronavirus emerged in China late last year, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.

Countries that have seen strong success against the virus are now cracking down on new outbreaks.

South Korea closed bars and nightclubs this week as it braces for a third major wave, with virus cases at their highest level since March.

Britain and France meanwhile are mulling easing lockdowns soon, but authorities have said restrictions will remain.

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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.