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COVID-19

Covid resurgence likely to hit Germany in October, warns top virologist

Covid infections in Germany have recently been falling. But experts are warning that the winter wave fuelled by the more transmissible Delta variant has not yet hit.

Covid resurgence likely to hit Germany in October, warns top virologist
A sign in a bar in Braunschweig saying entry is only for vaccinated and recovered people. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

German virologist Christian Drosten believes the relatively calm Covid-19 situation in Germany will not last because not enough people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

He said that in eastern German states – where the vaccination rates are lower – the 7-day incidence of infections is already picking up speed again. That shows what could happen elsewhere soon, he added. 

“I think there is now an indication of the autumn and winter wave that we will probably see again in October,” the scientist from Berlin’s Charité hospital said Tuesday evening on the Coronavirus Update podcast on NDR-Info.

He said that Germany experienced a similar rise in Covid cases last year. At that time, he said, it was clear in the second half of October “that we were going back into an exponential increase”. 

Germany saw a rise in Covid cases this summer, sparking fears that hospitals would be overburdened particularly with unvaccinated people. 

Drosten said this rise in the incidence was due in particular to testing at schools after the end of the summer vacations and imported cases from abroad after travel – and was not yet necessarily the start of the winter wave.

READ ALSO: What’s behind the falling Covid cases in Germany?

‘Numbers look bad’

On Wednesday Germany reported 11,780 Covid cases within 24 hours and 67 deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 61 cases per 100,000 people, up from 60.3 the day before.

Although hospital admissions have grown since the start of August, this has now reached a plateau phase. 

Around 64 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But health experts say that is not enough to get through winter unscathed.

On Tuesday the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) released data that showed 74.7 percent of people aged 18 and older in Germany are fully jabbed., while, 33.2 percent of those aged 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. 

Overall health experts and politicians want to see at least 75 percent of the 12-59 year olds jabbed, and 90 percent of over-60s immunised to prevent another Covid wave hitting the country hard and filling up hospital beds. 

Drosten said Germany’s vaccination progress wasn’t good enough. “The numbers look bad,” he said, adding that neighbouring Denmark is in a much better position than Germany.

Closing the vaccination gap must be the goal, Drosten said, adding that it was a political task to convince people who are hesitant about vaccines. 

Drosten did point to reports that suggested more people in this country may already have been vaccinated than has so far been recorded in the system. That’s a “nice hope” at the moment, but should not be the basis for decisions and planning, 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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