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COVID-19

In Depth: How Europe is ramping up new lockdown measures to fight coronavirus pandemic

The European Union agreed to close its external borders as countries ramped up their lockdown measures in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Here's a look at how countries are tackling the crisis.

In Depth: How Europe is ramping up new lockdown measures to fight coronavirus pandemic
AFP

The European Union has agreed to close its external borders for 30 days.

The entry of non-EU nationals will be restricted unless they have visas. EU nationals and Britons will be allowed to enter the EU though.

Quarantine, schools, shops and borders closed, gatherings banned, here are the main measures being taken in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Confinement

Italy and Spain, Austria and the Czech Republic, have taken strict confinement measures. Their citizens can go out only to work, for health reasons or to buy food.

France's President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation on Monday evening to announce that the government was ordering people to stay home for 15 days unless for essential reasons.

Those reasons included grocery shopping, exercise, medical appointments and walking the dog. But it was now forbidden to friends or families outside. Anyone caught disobeying the rule would be subject to a 38 euro fine that could rise to €135.

The British government has asked people displaying symptoms to remain at home for a week.

Greece has imposed a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

People returning from the main coronavirus hotspots must stay at home for two weeks in Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Norway, Russia and Slovakia. Germany has recommended the same.

 Borders controlled or closed

Spain announced Monday it would close its land borders at midnight.

Germany has stepped up border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, only allowing through goods transit and border workers.

France is to bolster checks with Germany, while not closing its border completely.

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania and Slovakia have announced the closure of their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia making an exception for Poles.

Russia has closed its land borders with Norway and Poland.

Austria has almost entirely closed its border with Italy.

Schools closed 

Schools, universities and creches are closed in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal,  Romania, Russia, Slovakia,  Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine.

Gatherings banned

In Belgium, Cyprus and Italy all gatherings have been banned.

Gathering of more than five people are banned in Austria and the Swiss canton of Geneva, while the Czech Republic has prohibited meetings with more than 30.

Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands and Switzerland have set the threshold at 100 people, as have Hungary and Romania for closed meetings.

Finland and Sweden have set the bar at 500 people.

Germany has cancelled  non-essential events gathering less than 1,000 people, a threshold also in force in Poland, Portugal and Romania.

Moscow has banned meetings of more than 50 indoors and set limits on outdoor events.

Restaurants and shops closed

Non-essential businesses have been closed in Andorra, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain.

In Belgium, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants are closed, as are pubs in Ireland.

Luxembourg and the Netherlands have ordered the closure of all places and businesses open to the public.

Greece has closed its museums and archaeological sites.

Transport disrupted

France has announced a gradual reduction of long-distance transport, including buses, planes and trains.

In Germany regional rail transport will also be heavily reduced.

Rome's second airport, Ciampino, is closed, while Fiumicino is to close one of its three terminals from Tuesday.

Poland has cancelled all domestic flights.

Ukraine has suspended air links and Russia has reduced them with the European Union.

Austria has suspended rail links with Italy and air links with France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

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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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