‘No travel until late May’, warns German government

The German government has warned that people will only be able to go on holiday after Whitsun this year, meaning a wait until the end of May before Germans can travel.

'No travel until late May', warns German government
People enjoy the sun at lake Constance during Whitsun 2020. Photo: DPA

“I think that travel is something that is very hard to imagine happening over the next two to three months,” Thomas Bareiß, the tourism commissioner for the government, told broadcaster RTL on Monday.

“It will get better again from the Whitsun vacations onwards. And I hope that summer will then be a very big travel period,” he said.

The religious holiday of Whitsun falls on May 23rd this year. The Monday following Whitsun is a national holiday in Germany.

His announcement comes as Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly told her party members that the tough Covid-19 measures in Germany will be needed for 'eight to 10 more weeks' if numbers don't improve.

Bareiß added though that once a large number of people had been vaccinated a holiday in more distant parts of the world could also be possible later in the year.

“If we really have most people vaccinated in Germany in the second quarter of the year, then it will be safe to travel in the summer,” he said.

TRAVEL: What to know about Germany's two-test strategy on arrivals from 'risk areas'

The government’s sober assessment on travel came as the association of public health officers predicted that the lockdown would have to be extended beyond the end of January.

“I’m not at all sure that we will be able to end the lockdown at the end of this month,” said the association’s head, Ute Teichert.

Saying that the prospect of reaching the government's target of lowering the case rate to below 50 infections per 100,000 in that time period seemed unrealistic, Teichert said. He pointed out that “relaxations of the rules will at any rate only come in steps and not all at once.”

New lockdown rules introduced on Monday mean that residents of Germany are now only allowed to meet one person at a time from outside their own household. Districts with a case rate higher than 200 per 100,000 now have a 15 kilometre travel restriction in place.

Good news on Tuesday came in the form of the Moderna vaccine, which is the second vaccine to start being delivered in Germany after the Biontech jab. The Moderna vaccine was approved by European authorities earlier this month and some 2 million doses will be administered to the population by the end of the first quarter, said Health Minister Jens Spahn.

On Tuesday the Robert Koch Institute, the German disease control agency, announced a further 12,802 positive cases over the previous 24 hours with an additional 891 deaths.

The record number of cases was recorded on December 18th at 33,777 but the agency warns that current numbers continue to paint an unreliable picture of the situation due to delays in reporting or discovering infections that occurred over the festive period.

SEE ALSO: The new 15 kilometre rule explained

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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.