Germany’s coronavirus infection rate falls below 100 for first time in months

For the first time since the end of October, the number of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days has fallen below 100.

Germany's coronavirus infection rate falls below 100 for first time in months
A sign on the opera house in Dortmund reads: 'There will come a time after Corona'. Photo: DPA

The so-called 7-day incidence stood at 98 on Thursday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

This means that the number of new infections reported within seven days has roughly halved since the peak just before Christmas – at that time on December 22nd the 7-day incidence reached 197.6.

German authorities are aiming to get the incidence down to a rate of under 50 new infections per 100,000 residents within a week in order to be able to trace infections.

What are the current numbers?

On Thursday, the RKI reported 17,553 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours, and more than 900 deaths.

A week ago authorities recorded 20,398 new infections and 1,013 deaths within a day.

The highest number of daily deaths was recorded on January 14th when 1,244 people were reported to have died.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the RKI has recorded 2,178,828 confirmed infections. The real number is likely to be much higher, as many infections are not detected.

The Our World in Data chart below gives an idea of the current infection situation in Germany, and the difficult second wave.

However, there are still major state differences.

In Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, the 7-day incidence rate stands at around 174 new infections per 100,000 residents. In Brandenburg the number is at 151.4. 

The lowest incidence is in Bremen (72.8).

In Baden-Württemberg it's 79, while in Bavaria it's 97, it's 89 in Berlin and 93 in North Rhine-Westphalia.

What's the big picture?

The total number of people in Germany confirmed to have died from or with Covid-19 stands at 54,913.

The nationwide 7-day reproductive number was 0.87 (previous day 0.88), according to the RKI situation report published o Wednesday evening.

This means that 100 infected people on average go onto infect 87 others. The value represents the number of infections 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below one for a longer period of time, the incidence of infection is decreasing.

Despite the encouraging numbers, there are major concerns over new highly infectious variants, such as those detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced plans to introduce drastic travel restrictions against countries with Covid-19 variants spreading fast.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders recently tightened and extended the lockdown measures to February 14th over the threat of the variants.

Calls for a road plan out of the shutdown, which has been in place since the beginning of November and has got progressively tougher, are growing louder.

Yet Germany will have a tricky time balancing opening up public life again and keeping infection numbers down along with the variants.

Last week top virologist Christian Drosten warned Germany could see up to 100,000 cases per day in a worst case scenario if the country relaxes measures too quickly and variants spread.

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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.