For members


EXPLAINED: Germany’s latest proposals to fight fourth Covid wave

As the situation in Germany's hospitals intensifies, political leaders are considering a new raft of measures. Here's what you need to know ahead of Thursday's meeting.

People queue for a vaccination in Hamburg.
People queue for a vaccination in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

What is actually going on in Germany?

Covid cases have been rising and German hospitals are buckling under the pressure of new coronavirus patients – most of whom are unvaccinated according to doctors. Some intensive care units are full, while other hospitals have cancelled operations to divert staff and resources to ICUs. 

Politicians are wrestling over the best Covid plan to get through this difficult period. After an emergency meeting on Tuesday, another round of talks will take place on Thursday to decide on the measures needed to calm the fourth wave. 

But there are a few complications to keep in mind: firstly, Germany’s incoming government is not quite in place yet (that’s due to happen next week), so the outgoing government, headed by Angela Merkel (CDU), is still technically in power in a caretaker capacity. Merkel and soon-to-be Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) are attending Covid meetings together.

There are 16 state premiers who also want to have their say. Plus there’s the issue of the legal basis for introducing any far-reaching new Covid measures after the ‘pandemic state of emergency’ was lifted on November 25th and replaced with an amended Infection Protection Act which caused political friction.

Adding to the mix is a ruling by the federal constitutional court released this week which found that the emergency brake rules – which included curfews and contact bans – were lawful. This ruling widens the scope for decisions on Covid restrictions in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Will Germany bring in Covid ’emergency brake’ restrictions?

What are political leaders hoping for?

The general feeling among most state and federal leaders is that Covid measures need to become tougher in order to deal with the dramatic situation. 

Here’s a look at the ideas being put forward by Scholz. 

Vaccine mandates

After the talks on Tuesday, Scholz said he wanted to see Germany follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Austria by introducing compulsory vaccination by March next year.

“We have not succeeded in getting enough people vaccinated,” said Scholz after the meeting. “Many people have been vaccinated, but because it’s not enough we are in the position we’re in now. 

“Due to the conditions we can and must make a decision. I’m in favour of it. I’m also in favour of it being based on a vote in the Bundestag where every member will decide according to their own conscience.”

Compulsory vaccination for employees in certain professions – like care facilities for the elderly and in hospitals – is also being looked at as a first step after state leaders called for it last month

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter

Booster shots at the dentist

In order to increase the vaccination tempo and to get 30 million shots into people’s arms by Christmas, vaccinations should be carried out by pharmacists, dentists – and even vets, Scholz proposed.

A Bundeswehr officer at a vaccination centre in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Vaccination only recognised for six months

Immunity among the population could also be increased by making it compulsory to get a booster shot six months after the last dose, according to Scholz. That would mean people would lose their vaccination status if they didn’t get a top-up jab.

Unvaccinated barred from almost all public life

There are calls from Scholz for a nationwide 2G rule In the retail sector. That means access to non-essential shops would only be for people who are vaccinated (geimpft) or for those who have recovered from Covid (genesen). Some states have already brought in this regulation.

Businesses are also encouraged to have 2G-plus rules – where vaccinated or recovered people also have to show a negative Covid test to gain entry into a venue or event. 

Closures and restrictions

Large events such as football matches would be significantly restricted under the plans, with 2G or 2G-plus rules. Bavarian premier Markus Söder said all spectators should be temporarily banned from matches. He said it was difficult to justify busy stadiums when Christmas markets have been cancelled. 

And the proposals say that venues like clubs and bars – and similar – would have to close in areas with high Covid numbers or hospitalisations.

“From the federal government’s point of view, this is already legally possible,” says the proposal. “It will undoubtedly be clarified in the reform of the Infection Protection Act. However, the states should already use this option across the board where necessary.”

The legal possibility of closing restaurants in areas with difficult infection dynamics is also being looked at.

However, according to the latest draft, the aim is to keep access to cultural and leisure facilities – such as cinemas, theatres and restaurants – open but only to vaccinated and recovered people (2G). An up-to-date test could be required (2G-plus rule).

READ ALSO: Germany to thrash out tougher Covid measures on Thursday

Contact restrictions for unvaccinated people

Nationwide strict contact restrictions are being proposed for the unvaccinated. If you are eligible but have chosen to not get vaccinated, private gatherings would be limited to your own household and a maximum of two people from another household.

Lockdown ‘clause’

Furthermore, according to German regional newspaper the Tagesspiegel, a planned amendment to Germany’s infection protection laws will include a permanent ‘state lockdown clause’ to allow for regional lockdowns, including widespread closures and curfews for the unvaccinated.

This item is needed because the current lockdowns in Saxony and Bavaria, which were brought in before the legal situation changed on November 25th are only allowed to stay in place until December 15th. 

Some states say they are struggling to introduce curbs under the new legal framework. Berlin authorities, for instance, said Tuesday they wanted to close clubs, bars and restaurants but said the law needs to be adapted at the federal level.

Masks in schools

Mandatory masks will be reintroduced in schools for all grades nationwide.

Expert committee

Scholz wants to set up a scientific expert committee in the Federal Chancellery which will meet once a week and make joint proposals.

A Covid crisis team led by a military general has already been set up. Its primary task will be coordinating and speeding up the vaccine rollout, but it will also be charged with monitoring and responding to the ongoing Covid situation.

What else is on the table?

There are also calls for the Christmas holidays to be brought forward in badly hit areas.

All of these points – and others – will be discussed and decided on in a meeting between Scholz, Merkel and state leaders. 

“The details of these regulations are to be worked out by Thursday in order to then come to joint decisions,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced.

Member comments

  1. Bavaria did such a great job here, keeping brothels and discos open until the last minute and then cancelling everything including Christmas Markets 🙄

    If 90% of the hospital patients are unvaccinated, then how does a 2g controlled Christmas Market pose much threat to increasing hospitalizations?

  2. Thanks unvaccinated people. This is on you. Another 7 month lockdown beginning. So sad that vaccinated people will be punished too.

  3. Exactly! Vaccinated -and- tested at an outdoor event is absurd — especially when the German’s own aerosol study showed transmission is highly unlikely. Just continued punishment. Once Austria led the way on that front it was clear Germany would not be outdone.

  4. So the government lied about no lockdown for the vaccinated. Now I know not to trust it. Its as bad as the UK government.

  5. Best figures in the World are from RKI – BUT they are being totally misused – SO – follow the figures.
    e.g. Last week RKI figures showed ICU beds occupied at ca 15.2%

    Further misuse is categorizing deaths as ‘Corvid’ when they are plainly not i.e. dead from being hit by a Lorry, autopsy etc. shows presence within 28 days of Corvid, so “cause of death is Corvid related”.
    Where on Earth did the good old Influenza vanish to? Nah, it’s OK, call it Corvid.
    Petty unqualified Politicians spouting from so called ‘Experts – never seen so many of these Professorial experts come out of the woodwork in my life. The Media is having a field day

    1. Agreed. People, look at RKI. The ICU beds are NOT filled with the unvaccinated, as is clearly seen in the RKI stats.

      I would add to this that there are nurses reporting that if the sick person in the ICU is double jabbed, but no longer carries enough antibodies, they are counted in the ICU as “unvaccinated”.

      One nurse reported that she was made to sign a gag order discussing this or anything else that goes on in the hospital with the press.

      Things are not what is being reported. It is deeply disheartening. All any of us wants is to know what is actually going on.

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For members


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.