EXPLAINED: Why Germany’s stabilising Covid incidence might be a false dawn

The 7-day incidence of Covid infections in Germany fell slightly on Tuesday for the first time in more than three weeks - but it is still well above 400 cases per 100,000 residents.

An Ordnungsamt employee checks a restaurant's Covid entry rules in Hanover.
An Ordnungsamt employee checks a restaurant's Covid entry rules in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ole Spata

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of new infections per 100,000 residents per week stands at 452.2 – the first time the figure has dropped in more than three weeks.

On Monday, Germany logged 452.4 infections per 100,000 people in seven days. A week ago, the incidence was 399.8, and a month ago it was 153.7.

However, experts have warned that it might not be a sign of infections beginning to stabilise in Germany. Instead it could be that local health offices are struggling to report all infections. 

German data journalist Olaf Gersemann, who analyses Covid data, said the incidence is “likely to be revised upwards significantly in the coming days”.

He said that’s because authorities can “no longer keep up with reporting”.

Large regional differences

The German state with the highest incidence is Saxony which has clocked up an alarming 1268.9 infections per 100,000 people in seven days. Thuringia follows with an incidence of 936.8. Next is Brandenburg (727.8) and Saxony-Anhalt (717.2)

The 7-day incidence of infections in Bavaria stands at 618.2 per 100,000 people, the fifth highest among the German states.

The lowest incidence among the states is Schleswig-Holstein which currently has 150.1 Covid cases per 100,000 people.

Are Covid measures having an effect?

Germany has been pushing for people to get vaccinated against Covid and receive their booster shot in the last weeks, which has resulted in more shots being carried out. 

States have also tightened their entry rules into many public spaces, meaning access to places like restaurants or bars is only allowed for those who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid (so-called 2G rules). 

Some areas – including Saxony and Bavaria – have gone further and closed venues like bars, while implementing lockdown-style measures in the hardest hit districts.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach told German broadcaster Tagesschau that these restrictions may be having an effect, but “more needs to be done”.

“Some measures have already been taken,” he said. “We can already see the effect of the measures taken, but not enough.”

Lauterbach said that contact restrictions as well as closures of public areas – such as clubs, bars and discos – is needed nationwide.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz are holding emergency crisis talks with state leaders on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of tougher restrictions. 

READ ALSO: German leaders to discuss tougher Covid restrictions

What’s going on in hospitals?

The deciding factor for tightening Covid measures is the so-called hospitalisation incidence.

This number indicates how many people per 100,000 residents have to be treated in hospital within seven days because of a Covid-19 infection.

If a state hits a hospitalisation rate of 3, the 2G rule (only vaccinated and recovered people are allowed to enter many public places) applies. The states can impose stricter measures if the incidence numbers of 6 and 9 are exceeded.

On Monday, the incidence of hospitalisation nationwide was 5.52.

However, in the worst-hit areas intensive care units are overrun, and patients are having to be transferred to other areas – even abroad in some cases.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, around 4,599 Covid-19 patients are currently in intensive care units in Germany. Of these, 2,356 patients are receiving ventilation. 

READ ALSO: Germany must be prepared for Omicron variant, warns top virologist

Member comments

    1. German COVID statistics are notoriously unreliable on Sundays / Mondays / Tuesday due to a massive drop off in the number of tests on weekends and due to bureaucrats not updating figures quickly enough after that. So a tiny drop one day in the beginning of the week means nothing, unfortunately…

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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.