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VACCINE

Vaccinated German care home residents test positive for British coronavirus variant

Fourteen German residents of a care home have tested positive for the British Covid-19 variant despite being vaccinated - but have only developed mild symptoms.

Vaccinated German care home residents test positive for British coronavirus variant
Photo: DPA

The residents of the care home near Osnabrück, near the Dutch border, all tested positive for the B.1.1.7. variant of the coronavirus after receiving two jabs with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccination in January.

None of the elderly people have had serious symptoms, however, which could indicate that the vaccination has effectively protected them from serious illness caused by the new strain.

On Monday BioNTech released data that showed its jab was also effective against the British and South African variants of the virus, which are more infectious.

Nevertheless, Eugen Brysch, from the German Foundation for Patient Protection, called on the government to increase testing in care homes where residents have been vaccinated in order to better understand what risk the new strains of the virus pose there.

“It is becoming increasingly apparent that vaccinated people are not immune to the coronavirus and can pass it on,” Brysch said. “But vaccination can still be helpful in preventing an outbreak of the disease. This doesn't have to be a scary scenario – we will have to live with the virus.”

The cases were discovered on Friday after one of the carers’ rapid test results turned up positive. All of the residents and staff were tested and 14 residents were found to be positive.

“At least as far as vaccination is concerned, there is little to worry about after this news over the weekend,” commented Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung science writer Joachim Müller-Jung.

Jung pointed out that BioNTech had never claimed that its vaccination, which is based on imitating the virus’ RNA, prevents infections. 

“The mRNA vaccination protects effectively against the Covid-19 disease, but whether and to what extent it can also prevent infection and transmission of the virus remains unclear,” wrote Jung.

SEE ALSO: Germany to launch national vaccination plan amid disappointment over shortages

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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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