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PANDEMIC

Merkel defends Germany’s new strict Covid measures

Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Germans to accept nationwide pandemic restrictions that came into force at midnight on Saturday.

Angela Merkel
Photo: John MACDOUGALL / various sources / AFP

The new measures include a 10pm to 5am curfew, further restrictions on socialising and the closures of non-essential shops in regions with high infection rates.

In her weekly video address to the nation, Merkel acknowledged that the new rules “are tough” but insisted they are “urgently needed” in order to slow the spread of Covid-19 the country.

The emergency brake measures come into force if the average number of reported new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over a week exceeds 100 for three days in a row.

According to the RKI dashboard, around 351 districts and cities in Germany have a seven-day incidence above 100. On Friday April 23rd, Germany recorded 27,543 cases within the last 24 hours, and 265 deaths, while the nationwide seven-day incidence increased to 164.

Referring to other countries such as Britain, Portugal and Ireland, which have recently seen a sharp drop in infection rates due to strict lockdowns, Merkel defended Germany’s new restrictions against critics who have called them excessive.

“No country that managed to break the third wave of the pandemic and then loosen restrictions again did so without tough measures such as nighttime curfews,” Merkel said.

Under the new rules, people are not allowed to leave their homes between 10pm-5am, unless it’s for an essential reason like work or a medical emergency. Walking and jogging alone outside is allowed until midnight.

No more than one household can meet and socialise, with the exception of children up to 14.

Non-essential shops can only open for customers who present a negative Covid-19 test and have booked an appointment. Classroom attendance at schools is to be stopped if the incidence rate exceeds 165 over three days

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has recorded almost 3.3 million cases and 81,444 deaths.

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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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