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ANGELA MERKEL

Germany records rise in new Covid-19 cases amid talk of loosening restrictions

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded 11,869 new Covid-19 infections within one day, 1,662 more than a week ago on Thursday. It comes as state and federal leaders are discussing how to safely reopen public life.

Germany records rise in new Covid-19 cases amid talk of loosening restrictions
Passersby in the centre of Celle, Lower Saxony, where face masks are mandatory. Photo: DPA

The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was also higher than the previous day (59.3), or 61.7 nationwide.

In addition, 385 more deaths were recorded within 24 hours. This is less than exactly one week ago: At that time, the RKI had recorded 10,207 new infections and 534 new deaths with or from the virus within 24 hours.

A month ago on January 28th, the seven-day incidence stood at 98. Its previous high had been 197.6 on December 22nd. 

The peak of 1244 newly reported deaths had been reached on January 14th. In terms of new infections registered within 24 hours, the highest number of new infections (33,777) had been recorded on December 18th.

This graph shows the seven-day incidence in Germany over the past couple of months. Credit: DPA

What’s next for Germany?

As the debate on reopening public life gains momentum, German Finance Minister and Social Democratic (SPD) candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a lifting of restrictions to be tackled partly with at-home rapid tests. The first three were approved for use on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany’s new at-home coronavirus tests

“The virus and its mutations will be with us for a while, I’m afraid. So we have to find ways to manage not having to live in lockdown forever. That’s why we could combine the next opening steps with rapid tests,” Scholz told the Rheinische Post newspaper ahead of the next federal-state consultations on March 3rd.

The meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premieres will discuss what comes after Germany’s current shutdown, set to stretch until March 7th.

Most states are currently working out individual plans to gradually open public life and reduce contact restrictions. 

On Wednesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel also advocated a gradual reopening with the aid of the new tests.

 “An intelligent opening strategy is inseparably linked with comprehensive rapid tests,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Scholz also called for a better organised vaccination campaign in Germany. “The task ahead of us is huge. Within a comparatively short time, we have to vaccinate about 60 million people twice, which is a mega project in terms of organisation and logistics,” he said.

“And now we – the federal government, the states and the local authorities – have to make all the preparations to ensure that this happens quickly and as smoothly as possible. Our current capacities are simply not sufficient.”

As of Thursday, a total of 1,910,863 people in Germany had received both a first and second dose of the vaccine according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

READ ALSO: How can Germany speed up its Covid-19 vaccination campaign?

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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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