SHARE
COPY LINK

BORDER

Germany imposes controls on Czech and Austrian borders

Germany partially closed its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria's Tyrol on Sunday over a troubling surge in coronavirus mutations, drawing a swift rebuke from the European Union.

Germany imposes controls on Czech and Austrian borders
German police check a car at the Czech border. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP
A thousand police officers have been mobilised to ensure strict border checks, which recall the much-criticised early days of the pandemic when EU countries hastily closed their frontiers to each other.
   
At the Kiefersfelden crossing in southern Bavaria, officers in yellow high-visibility vests and wearing balaclavas to stave off the chill in -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), meticulously stopped each vehicle
coming from Austria.
   
Under the new rules, in place until February 17, only Germans or non-German residents are allowed to enter, and they must provide a recent negative coronavirus test.
   
Some exceptions are allowed for essential workers in sectors such as health and transport, as well as for urgent humanitarian reasons, the interior ministry has said.
   
German rail company Deutsche Bahn has suspended services to and from the affected areas.
   
At Frankfurt airport, the country's largest, federal police were on Sunday checking passengers arriving from Vienna and Prague.
   
The restrictions are aimed at slowing the spread of new, more contagious variants that first emerged in Britain and South Africa, and have created new virus hotspots along the Czech border and in Austria's Tyrol region.
 
 
READ ALSO: 
'Enough'
 
The European Commission, eager to avoid a return to go-it-alone pandemic responses, has condemned Germany's newest restrictions and urged it to facilitate cross-border movement for commuters.
   
“The fear of the coronavirus mutations is understandable,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told Germany's Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper on Sunday.
 
“But the truth is that the virus cannot be stopped by closed borders,” she said, adding that vaccines and following hygiene precautions were “the only things that work”.
   
“I think it's wrong to return to a Europe with closed borders like we had in March 2020,” she added.
   
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has angrily rebuffed the criticism from Brussels.
   
“That's enough now,” he told the top-selling Bild daily. The EU “has made enough mistakes” with its sluggish vaccine rollout, he said.
   
“We are fighting against the mutated virus at the Czech and Austrian borders. The EU Commission should support us… instead of putting stones in our path.”
 
'Second Ischgl'
 
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government recently decided to extend Germany's partial lockdown until March 7 because of the risks posed by the variants, even if daily infection numbers have fallen over the past weeks.
   
In the Czech Republic, one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, three cantons including two on the German border have been placed under lockdown due to the prevalence of the British virus variant.
   
In Austria, anyone leaving the mountainous region of Tyrol now needs to produce a negative coronavirus test following a cluster of cases linked to the highly transmissible South African variant.
   
Tyrol has allowed ski areas to remain open, supposedly for locals, but there has still been an influx of foreign skiers into the area.
   
Bavarian premier Markus Söder said he feared that “a second Ischgl” was in the making — a reference to the Austrian ski resort that became a Covid-19 hotspot last year and contributed to the virus's spread across Europe.
   
Germany has said it is also considering introducing checks at the border with the Moselle region in eastern France.
   
“Even though these virus variants are already circulating in Germany we need to prevent further intrusion as much as we can,” said the interior minister of the Baden-Wurttemberg region, Bavaria's neighbour.
 
 
 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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. 

SHOW COMMENTS