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HEALTH

Germany to accelerate vaccinations as Delta variant spreads

Despite the demand of vaccinations currently exceeding supply, Germany is expected to see a surplus of shots by the end of July, health minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday.

Germany to accelerate vaccinations as Delta variant spreads
(Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

Germany will soon have so many Covid-19 vaccinations that it will be able to give them out to passers-by in city centres and in places of worship, health officials stated on Saturday.

Speaking at a televised discussion on the health situation in Germany, Spahn said the country needed to fast-forward its vaccination rollout as the Delta variant spreads throughout Europe, reported Reuters.

According to Spahn, “By the end of July, every adult in Germany who wants to be vaccinated will also be able to receive a first vaccination. If deliveries continue like this, perhaps even a little earlier,” quoted German broadcaster ZDF.

READ ALSO: ‘This can be a good summer’: Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid

The German government intends to deliver 5 million doses to vaccination centres across the country in the first week of July, he added.

Further to that, the health minister indicated that the pharmaceutical company Moderna is expected to double the doses it had pledged.

The drugmaker plans to provide some 5.32 million vaccine doses in July, 10.28 million in August and as many as 14.5 million doses in September, reported news broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

In the coming week, 5 million doses from the British-Swedish vaccine producer AstraZeneca and one million doses from the US producer Johnson & Johnson are to be delivered to vaccination centres in the country as well as to doctors, it was announced. A large delivery from BioNTech is also pending.

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

There are hundreds of thousands of vaccines by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson not being used up immediately, according to the health minister.

On Saturday, Spahn tweeted that Germany was ahead of Great Britain for the first time, in terms of the absolute number of people vaccinated.

Over half of people in Germany, 53.3%, have received at least one dose and more than a third (34.8%) are now fully vaccinated, the tweet read.

The president of public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, joined in the discussion to echo the need to increase vaccination administration.

He said this was the “most powerful tool” against the pandemic.

READ ALSO: ‘Vaccinate quickly’: German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases

“We are talking about more than 80 percent of the people living in our country,” Wieler said when asked how many people needed to be vaccinated.

“We need to reach that figure so we have basic protection,” he added.

Although the health situation is improving in Germany, the share of Delta variant Covid infections among new cases in the country is rising.

Spahn said the outbreaks of the Delta variant in Britain and Israel showed the need for Germany to ramp up their vaccination campaign.

A single vaccine dose has been found to offer low protection against the Delta variant, so German experts are looking to shorten the gap between the two doses in order to mitigate the risks.

Spahn also indicated that it’s also up to individual responsibility to stem outbreaks and avert a fourth wave.

“We have it in our own hands, each and every one of us and we as a society, that this good summer, which it can become, firstly remains good and secondly autumn and winter become just as good,” he said.

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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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