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COVID-19 STATS

European health authorities warn of surge in Delta variant infections

European health officials are calling on countries to step up free testing and contact tracing to fight the Delta variant of Covid-19.

European health authorities warn of surge in Delta variant infections
A person receives a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Barcelona. Photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

WHO Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a joint appeal on Friday for “reinforced efforts” by European countries to check the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India.

“WHO recommends that countries increase access to free of charge testing, expand sequencing, incentivise quarantine for contacts and isolation for confirmed cases, strengthen contact tracing to break chains of transmission and ensure those most at risk among our populations are vaccinated,” the joint statement said.

It said data reported to WHO and the ECDC shows that between June 28th and July 22th the Delta variant was dominant in 19 countries of the 28 countries that reported sufficiently complete genetic sequencing information.

The number of cases surged this week by nine percent worldwide, up 26 percent in Europe and 60 percent in the United States, spurred on by the Delta variant, according to an AFP survey.

The ECDC, which tracks the 27 EU countries and three non-EU countries, said it raised from low to moderate its level of concern for the pandemic in Europe and expressed a high level of concern for four countries: Spain, Portugal, Malta and Cyprus.

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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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