‘Far from normality’: Germany mulls longer shutdown as daily Covid-19 deaths top 1,000

Germany's daily coronavirus death toll crossed 1,000 for the first time on Wednesday, with politicians predicting an extension of the county's partial lockdown beyond the current January 10th deadline.

'Far from normality': Germany mulls longer shutdown as daily Covid-19 deaths top 1,000
Tables sealed up in the Friedrichshafen amid the current lockdown. Photo: DPA

A total of 1,129 deaths were reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre, breaking the previous record of 962 logged last Wednesday.

There were 22,459 new daily infections, the RKI said.

“The infection and death figures show that we are still very far from normality,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

“I don't see how, in this situation, we can return to how things were before the lockdown,” he added.

An apparent drop in new infections and deaths in recent days was a result of local authorities not sending in their data over the Christmas period, the RKI said.

Germany is under a partial lockdown until January 10th, with most shops closed along with schools, restaurants, cultural and leisure facilities.

New Year's Eve festivities will be muted, with a ban on the sale of fireworks and tight restrictions on the number of people who can gather in public.

“It will probably be the quietest New Year's Eve that Germany can remember,” Spahn said.

'Nowhere near'

Spahn on Tuesday told German broadcaster ARD that the country was “nowhere near where we need to be” and “there will undoubtedly be measures” after January 10th.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of Germany's 16 federal states will meet on January 5th to decide on future measures.

Armin Laschet, the leader of Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the DPA news agency that “no one can seriously raise this hope” of restrictions ending soon.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller also told the ZDF broadcaster he believes “we will have to continue to live with restrictions” for some time.

The eastern regions of Saxony and Thuringia remain hotspots in the country, with 330 and 255 infections per 100,000 inhabitants respectively.

This graph shows how many people out of each 100,000 residents were infected with the coronavirus in the last seven days. Credit: DPA

Vaccination delays

More than 32,000 people have now died from the virus in Germany, which appeared to fare relatively well in the spring but has been hit hard by a second wave.

The country began its vaccination drive on Saturday, with a 101-year-old
woman in a care home becoming the first person to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech

Around 78,000 people have so far received a first dose of the vaccine, data
released Wednesday said.

But some German regions have reported delays in receiving and administering

Berlin's health minister Dilek Kalayci said Wednesday that the city-state
would be suspending its campaign until January 11th after a planned delivery of
almost 30,000 doses was cancelled.

Around 42,000 people have so far received a first dose of the vaccine, data released Tuesday said.

READ ALSO: 'A question of life and death': Can Germany speed up the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out?

Britain on Wednesday approved a second coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which is cheaper and easier to transport than the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

However, the European Medicines Agency is unlikely to approve it in January, the regulator's deputy executive director Noel Walthion told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad on Tuesday.

Member comments

  1. Theres no excuse for not approving the AstraZeneca vaccination within the enxt few days. Get on with it. If its good enough for the UK, its good enough for Germany.

  2. Why are you so eager to offer yourself up as a human Guinea-Pig? The mRNA vaccine is not like traditional vaccines as we know it, these ‘vaccines’ are DNA altering, & they have not been trialed on humans for along enough period to know if they are fully safe or even effective against Covid-19.

  3. Wrong Adrian, AstraZenica the Oxford vaccine is not one of the mRNA vaccines. It is a traditional vaccine the same as the flue, measels, and many other vaccines which have saved countless lives around the world. Particulary in poorer countries. Ali is right it is good enough and we should all concider having it when offered.

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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.