Covid and supply chain woes to dampen economic growth in Germany

The growth of the German economy is set to be slower than expected next year due to disrupted supply chains and a new wave of Covid-19 infections, a leading economic think-tank said on Tuesday.

Shopping district Cologne
Crowds walk through the Cologne shopping district of Hohe Straße on November 29th, a day after the start of Advent. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

The Ifo institute downgraded its forecast for growth in Europe’s biggest economy in 2022 to 3.7 percent from an earlier estimate of 5.1 percent.

“Ongoing supply bottlenecks and the fourth wave of the coronavirus are noticeably slowing down the German economy, said Timo Wollmershaeuser, Ifo’s head of forecasts.

Disruption caused to supply chains by the pandemic has led to material shortages in everything from wood to semiconductors.

At the same time, Germany has been tackling a fourth wave of the coronavirus, with businesses in some areas forced to close early and unvaccinated people barred from non-essential shops.

The lower forecast could prove to be a headache for the new government, which took power last week, as it seeks to kickstart the economy with massive investments in digitalisation and climate projects.

READ ALSO: Why people in Germany should buy Christmas gifts early this year

Gross domestic product was expected to contract by 0.5 percent in the final quarter of 2021, Ifo said, as the economy struggles to return to its pre-pandemic level.

For 2021 as a whole, growth is set to come out at 2.5 percent.

Recovery would pick up speed in the second half of 2022 “as the coronavirus wave subsides and the supply bottlenecks gradually end,” Wollmershaeuser said.

And looking further ahead, Ifo upgraded its growth forecast for 2023 to 2.9 percent from a previous estimate of 1.5 percent.

The German central bank or Bundesbank is scheduled to publish its own economic forecasts on Friday.

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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.