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COVID-19

German Health Minister says focus must be on Covid hospital admissions when deciding measures

Health Minister Jens Spahn has advocated moving away from using the Covid 7-day incidence as the central measure for monitoring the pandemic - and instead putting the spotlight on hospital admissions.

German Health Minister says focus must be on Covid hospital admissions when deciding measures
Germany is promoting vaccines outside of football stadiums like this one in Fürth, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Spahn, who belongs to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), plans to remove the 7-day incidence of 50 Covid infections per 100,000 residents as a key marker from the Infection Protection Act.

During the pandemic, critical thresholds – such as 50 infections per 100,000 people in seven days – have been used as an indicator to decide when Covid measures should be brought in or tightened. 

“The 50 incidence in the law has had its day,” Spahn told broadcaster ZDF on Monday. “That is why my proposal is to now remove this benchmark, this 50 incidence, from the law quickly.”

On Monday Germany’s nationwide 7-day incidence had climbed to 56.4 cases per 100,000 people, up from 54.5 the previous day. There were 3,668 cases reported within 24 hours and four deaths. 

Some states – including Baden-Württemburg – have already moved away from focusing on the incidence. They are instead using Germany’s extended health pass system, which restricts entry to most indoor spaces to people who are vaccinated, recovered from Covid or with a negative test, regardless of the number of Covid cases. 

All states had to bring in the health pass – or 3G (geimpft – vaccinated, genesen – recovered, and getestet – tested) system by Monday August 23rd. 

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Spahn called for states to use the hospitalisation rate – the number of Covid patients admitted to hospitals – as a guide in regulating coronavirus measures.

“The new parameter will then be hospitalisation,” Spahn said.

Spahn said he wanted to present a proposal for a change in the law before the German federal election on September 26th. The government’s ‘Corona Cabinet’ met Monday morning to discuss the situation.

Union candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet (CDU) also called for a rapid departure from the 50 incidence.

“We have learned: incidence alone is no longer meaningful,” he told Bild TV. It’s well known, he said, “that 50 is not the same today as it was a year ago, because so many people have been vaccinated”.

In July Spahn said that “200 (Covid cases per 100,000 people) was the new 50” when it comes to assessing the Covid situation.

The Robert Koch Institute has previously called for the government to move away from focusing so much on the number of infections when assessing the pandemic – and instead look in more detail at hospitals, as well as the number of vaccinations. 

Around 63.9 percent of the population has received at least one Covid jab, and 58.8 percent are fully vaccinated. 

As The Local reported on Friday, hospital admissions are increasing in Germany but they are still at a low level. 

READ ALSO: Fourth wave – What we know about Germany’s spike in Covid cases

Member comments

  1. Move it further, they should remove the the Hospitalisation numbers of people who refused to be vaccinated & are now in Hospital. Those numbers should not be used to cause any reduction in the Freedom of people who did get vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated

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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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