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COVID-19

LATEST: Germany records 23,449 new Covid-19 cases amid call for tighter regional restrictions

According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany marked a slight increase from the previous week, leading the Health Minister to call for tougher local rules in some instances.

LATEST: Germany records 23,449 new Covid-19 cases amid call for tighter regional restrictions
A rapid test being carried out at a restaurant-turned-testing centre in Düsseldorf on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Health authorities in Germany reported 23,449 new coronavirus infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within 24 hours on Friday. 

This figure is slightly above the 22,806 cases of the previous week, RKI figures from Friday morning showed. There were also 432 new deaths reported within one day, the third highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The peak of 487 deaths was reached on Wednesday.

The total number of people whose deaths were attributed to a Sars-CoV-2 infection rose to 18,034 on Friday. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,130,238 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany. According to estimates, around 820,600 people have recovered from the disease.

This graph shows the number of daily new infections in Germany since the the beginning of the pandemic. Credit: DPA

According to the RKI management report of Thursday, the so-called seven-day R-value was 0.94 (previous day: 0.89), meaning that 100 infected people are now theoretically infecting 94 more people. 

If the value is below 1 for a longer period of time, the rate of infection subsides.

Spahn for more stringent measures in hotspots

In light of the new figures, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) pleaded for stricter contact restrictions in regions with high coronavirus infection rates. 

Where the figures are high, it is “absolutely” necessary to take steps that go beyond the measures agreed between the federal government and the 16 states, he told ZDF's “Morgenmagazin”. 

This has already been done in Saxony and Bavaria, for example, where in some cities and districts local residents are only allowed to leave their homes for “essential reasons” such as work or food shopping. 

Such a decision must always be based on the local level of infections, he said.

This map shows coronavirus hotspots around Germany, and where the highest reproductive rates are. Credit: DPA

Spain rejected a nationwide tightening of the partial lockdown, which has seen restaurants, bars and cultural institutions around Germany largely shut down and put limits on the size of public gatherings.

On Wednesday the oft-dubbed “lockdown light” was extended until January 10th.

READ ALSO: Analysis: Just how effective has Germany's partial lockdown been?

'Need for a common consciousness'

Spahn appealed for a “common consciousness” among Germans: Everyone must continue to look after each other, and avoid meeting up in large groups over the holidays. Most German states have put a limit of 10 people from different households amid the festive season. 

Spahn said that he had the impression that most Germans were sticking to the rules.

In addition, Spahn defended a regulation which went into force Friday, and now allows teachers and educators to test themselves for the coronavirus using rapid self-tests. 

But “It's only an option”, he said, in response to criticism from Germany’s states. “I did not say that everyone has to implement it.”

Specialists had warned against self-testing, which they feel carries a risk of false negative test results.

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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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