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VACCINATION

When will people with Covid immunity in Germany get more freedoms?

Chancellor Angela Merkel said people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 - and those who've recovered from the disease - can expect to face fewer Covid restrictions. What's the timetable for this?

When will people with Covid immunity in Germany get more freedoms?
A vaccination card in Cologne shows one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine has been given. Photo: DPA

What’s happened?

Merkel held a vaccine summit with Germany’s 16 state leaders on Monday to discuss whether fully inoculated people in Germany, and those who have had Covid-19 and recovered, should get more freedoms.

The Chancellor said that people who have received both jabs should “obviously” be allowed to get a haircut or go into a shop without having to show a negative coronavirus test as is currently the case for everyone in areas with high Covid-rates.

She also said that they would be exempt from rules like quarantining after close contact with an infected person.

The same would apply to people who can prove they have recovered from a coronavirus infection, for instance by showing a positive PCR test that is at least 28 days old.

READ ALSO:

Does this happen right away?

Merkel said that the government will prepare a decree setting out its proposals and present them to the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 states. She didn’t give a timescale on this plan.

Later on Monday, however, Health Minister Jens Spahn told broadcaster ARD that there was a firm timetable.

The CDU politician said the government is to decide by the end of May to what extent vaccinated people and recovered Covid patients will continue to be subject to strict rules, such as rapid testing, curfews and contact restrictions.

“The federal government will make a proposal for this next week and the Bundesrat will then make a final decision on May 28th. So, there is a schedule,” he said.

However, later on Tuesday it emerged that several states, including Bavaria, Berlin and Hesse, will be easing the rules for vaccinated people, such as getting rid of the obligation to present a negative Covid test before visiting non-essential shops and hairdressers.

READ ALSO: Bavaria and Berlin ease Covid rules for vaccinated people

It is likely that other states will follow.

Up to April 26th about 23.9 percent of the population had received at least one vaccine dose. About 7.3 percent have been fully inoculated.

IN NUMBERS: Is Germany ramping up the Covid-19 vaccine rollout?

What’s the reaction?

After the summit, representatives of towns and districts slammed the postponement of the decision on the rights of vaccinated people.

“It is regrettable that no final agreement was reached with the federal Chancellor about the lifting of the restrictions on fundamental rights for fully vaccinated citizens at the conference of state premiers,” said Gerd Landsberg, head of the Association of Towns and Municipalities.

Landsberg emphasised that it was not a question of granting special rights or privileges, “but of repealing unjustified encroachments on fundamental rights”.

One expects “a quick agreement in the Bundestag and Bundesrat and a clear legal regulation as to when which fundamental rights restrictions are lifted,” he told the Rheinische Post. “This applies in particular with a view to curfews and contact restrictions.”

District council president Reinhard Sager told  Funke media group newspapers that it is right to allow those who have been inoculated or have recovered from Covid to carry out activities without having to show a negative rapid Covid test.

He said that allowing this quickly would provide a way forward, particularly for the retail trade and the hospitality industry.

The majority of people in Germany are in favour of relaxing Covid restrictions for people who are inoculated, according to a new poll.

In a survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, 56 percent of respondents said they were in favour of giving fully vaccinated people in Germany more freedom again.

In contrast, 36 percent were “rather” or “completely” opposed to this. And 8 percent made no statement. For the representative survey, 1,138 people in Germany aged 18 and over were interviewed on April 26th.

What else should we know?

Merkel said the move to give those with Covid immunity back some of their basic rights comes after the country’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases recently found that fully vaccinated people and those who have recovered, “no longer pose a relevant infection danger”.

She added that Germany faced a “difficult transition phase” as a growing number of people get their shots and will be desperate for more freedoms, while a significant part of the population will still be living with tough restrictions.

Although it was important to give people back their basic rights “as soon as possible”, she said, “we will have to live with the virus for a long while to come”.

Under the proposed relaxations, people with Covid immunity would no longer have to show a recent negative coronavirus test to enter certain shops, get a haircut or attend certain events.

They would also be exempt from quarantining after returning from abroad, unless they were coming from a country classed as a high-risk virus variant area such as India.

READ MORE: German government proposes more rights for vaccinated people: What you need to know

On Monday Merkel also confirmed that Germany will lift the priority order for vaccines in June, meaning that all adults will be offered a Covid vaccine.

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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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