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Travel: Germany to demand negative Covid-19 test from all air passengers

Anyone wanting to arrive in Germany by plane must from Monday onwards show a negative Covid test before boarding, the health ministry said, amid concerns over German tourists flocking to Mallorca over the Easter holidays.

Travel: Germany to demand negative Covid-19 test from all air passengers
Travellers waiting at Hanover's airport on Thursday for a flight to Mallorca. Photo: DPA

The start date of the new measure was postponed from Sunday at midnight to Monday at midnight in order to give more time for airlines to prepare, said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) in Berlin on Friday.

Airline crews are exempt from the new rules. The test must be less than 48 hours old and is to be paid for by the passenger.

The move comes as Germany is battling a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, fuelled by new virus variants, while the country’s Covid vaccination drive is still sluggish.

The Easter holidays next week have added to concerns, with thousands of Germans set to travel to the Spanish island of Mallorca after it was taken off Germany’s list of coronavirus “risk areas” earlier in March.

READ ALSO: ‘Germans are coming back’: Spaniards sceptical over return of tourists

Airlines are laying on hundreds of extra flights to cope with the surge in demand, piling pressure on the government to find ways to ensure that returning holidaymakers do not worsen the coronavirus’ spread in Germany.

Last summer, according to some reports, the virus was also brought to Germany by some travellers.

The government has already said it is considering a temporary ban on travel to popular holiday destinations abroad, but such a step would face high legal hurdles.

READ ALSO: Germany considers temporary ban on foreign travel

Until now, only passengers coming from Robert Koch Institute (RKI)-designated “high-risk” coronavirus areas are required to show a negative test upon arrival in Germany.

Through the introduction of compulsory testing, the German government is refraining from designating individual regions or countries as risk areas, but rather putting in place a general obligation to test all air travellers on their way to Germany for the first time.

“Testing prior to departure will reduce the likelihood that infected persons will travel and infect others during the flight or cause an additional entry of SARS-CoV-2 infections into Germany,” stated the draft regulation, which is to be limited until May 12th.

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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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