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COVID-19

German health workers must be fully vaccinated by March 15th 2022

The new German government is set to bring in its partial vaccine mandate for health workers and carers in March next year, according to a draft law that's due to be voted on this week.

Vaccine booklets
Numerous vaccine booklets scattered on a desk. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

“To protect public health and vulnerable groups of people from Covid-19, provision is made for persons working in certain establishments and businesses to be vaccinated or recovered or to have a medical certificate stating that there is a contraindication to vaccination against Covid-19,” a draft of the law obtained by Reuters states.

The change will means that anyone who works as a doctor, nurse, paramedic or carer will have until March 15th, 2022 to provide their employer with proof that they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid.

If they can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons, they will have until this date to secure an official doctor’s note explaining that why they can’t get their Covid jabs. 

Anyone starting a new job after March 16th must have proof of vaccination before they start work, the draft law states. This rule will also apply to staff in doctors’ surgeries and people who work in emergency services, and people who don’t comply with the mandate could lose their jobs.

The move by the incoming SPD, Green and FDP coalition is the first step towards a more assertive stance from the government on Covid vaccination.

With more than 30 percent of the population still unvaccinated, the government is considering following in the footsteps of neighbouring Austria and introducing a general vaccinate mandate for over-12s next year.

The plan is expected to be put to a vote in parliament this month after Germany’s new government takes the reins on December 8th. According to incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz, MPs won’t whipped along party lines but will be able to vote with their conscience on the issue. 

Angela Merkel has recently spoken out in favour of compulsory jabs. 

The move is part of a raft of new measures aimed at taming the fourth wave, including barring unvaccinated people from non-essential shops and other public spaces and allowing states to close restaurants and bars when incidences are high. 

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In an attempt to speed up the vaccination drive in the run up to Christmas, the government has also drafted a new law to allow pharmacists, veterinarians and dentists to vaccinate people over the age of 12.

These professionals are expected to undergo special training first, and will either have to prove that they have an appropriate space to carry out vaccinations or work as part of a mobile vaccination team. 

According to DPA, these professionals will only gain permission to carry out the jabs for a limited period of time while Germany attempts to ramp up it vaccine coverage and roll out booster jabs. 

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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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