RKI boss urges Germans not to travel over Christmas as Covid-19 cases keep rising

The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, has urged Germans to stay at home over the Christmas period, saying "we fear that the holidays could further increase the incidence of infection".

RKI boss urges Germans not to travel over Christmas as Covid-19 cases keep rising
Lothar Wieler. Photo: DPA
Speaking on Tuesday, Wieler urged people to spend Christmas in very small groups and limit contacts to the same few participants.
“We are in for some tough weeks. We shouldn't make them even harder for ourselves,” the RKI boss said. “If people from different regions meet all over Germany, then the virus can spread even faster.”  
He said that the tougher new lockdown measures had so far had no impact on the spread of the virus, with cases continuing to rise.
Figures released on Tuesday morning show a further 19,528 positive tests, with 731 more deaths.
The nationwide number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days rose to an all-time high of 198 on average on Tuesday. The federal government and the Bundesländer want to bring that figure down to below 50.
Currently, though, six states have an incidence level above the 200 mark. The infection rate on Saxony, the worst in the country, is double that figure.
The tighter lockdown measures will last until at least January 10th. At that point the states are legally obligated to either lift the restrictions or renew them.
Vaccines to come
Wieler said he was happy that the first vaccinations would arrive shortly after Christmas but cautioned that it would take a long time before the majority of people are vaccinated and the virus' spread could be controlled through 'herd immunity'.
“That makes it all the more important to reduce the infection figures and keep them permanently low so that we can regain a certain degree of normality as soon as possible in the new year,” he said.
Following Monday's EU approval of Mainz-based Biontech's vaccine, Germany is scheduled to receive a first shipment of some 150,000 doses of the jab on Saturday.
In total, more than 1.3 million doses are expected to be distributed across the country by the end of the year. That will be followed by weekly deliveries of 670,000 doses, Health Minister Jens Spahn has pledged.

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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.