Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus

Germany said on Monday it would not rule out expanding new travel controls to its French border due to Covid-19 variants surging in the Moselle region. Paris, however, urged against border closures.

Germany not ruling out French border checks over coronavirus
A French border crossing in Breisach, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Asked about the situation in France, Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin was “continuing to monitor the situation and continually reviewing our measures to fight the pandemic”.

He added that border closures were “not normal” and a “last resort”, but said Germany was “in a situation where we need to do everything to prevent more aggressive mutations of the virus spreading as quickly in Germany as they have elsewhere”.

Seibert's comments came hours after French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune urged Germany not to close its borders with France.

“We do not want Germany to shut the border completely,” said Beaune after Berlin introduced tough checks at its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Germany imposes controls on Czech and Austrian borders

“We will do everything to avoid an uncoordinated decision and a nasty surprise,” Beaune said.

He added that any closures should be introduced in coordination with France and include as “wide-reaching exceptions as possible” in order to protect cross-border workers.

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

Under the new rules, only Germans or non-German residents are allowed through.

Exceptions are made for essential workers in sectors such as health and transport, as well as for urgent humanitarian reasons, according to the German interior ministry.

Everyone must be able to provide a recent negative coronavirus test.

The checks led to long traffic jams at border crossings on Monday morning, with some drivers having to wait several hours.

A surge in cases of the South African and Brazilian variants of the coronavirus in eastern French regions such as Moselle has prompted speculation that similar checks may be introduced on the French-German border.

The European Union condemned Germany's curbs, with EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders tweeting that the European Commission was “concerned about recent unilateral decisions” on travel.

France's Beaune also bemoaned the “lack of a discussion” between Berlin and the European Commission over the checks.

Yet a spokesman for the German interior ministry insisted Monday that the German policy combined “European thinking with local needs”.

READ ALSO: How European countries have changed after a year of coronavirus crisis

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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.