‘I looked like Robinson Crusoe’: Germans flock to get a haircut as salons reopen

Helmut Wichter had been desperate for a haircut for weeks as hair salons were shut in Germany to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

'I looked like Robinson Crusoe': Germans flock to get a haircut as salons reopen
A hairdresser cutting a man's hair in Berlin on Monday after salons reopened. Photo: AFP

“I looked like Robinson Crusoe,” said the 87-year-old, who joined crowds flocking to salons early Monday as they reopened their doors.

“I came here this morning and saw that there were already young people standing outside,” Wichter told AFP, as he finally emerged clean shaven from a barber in Berlin.

Many Germans had been left lamenting the state of their hair since mid-March, with some resorting to the black market to meet their grooming needs.

READ ALSO: Hair salons in Germany reopen on Monday – but with strict rules

In late April, police busted two illegal hairdressers in basements in the Bavarian district of Miltenberg.

One in seven people also resorted to cutting their own locks during the period, according to a survey by YouGov commissioned by national news agency DPA.

But Monday saw the start of a new phase of the virus fightback in Europe's biggest economy, with salons allowed to open once again along with some schools, museums, zoos, churches and playgrounds.

A hairdresser in Munich. Photo: AFP

Hairdressers have also reopened in Iceland, Slovenia and Greece as many European countries begin to tentatively ease lockdown measures designed to contain the virus.

At another barber a few streets away, Galep Atmaca, 15, showed up at 8 am.

“I feel uncomfortable with my hair right now,” he said, a crop of dark curls sticking out from beneath his hoodie.

Business is booming for barber Ramazan Uzun, 27, whose Cut 36 salon in Berlin's Kreuzberg district is nearly fully booked for the week.

“People are keen to have a proper haircut,” he said.

Hairdressers and their customers are required to wear face masks, and customers must be seated no closer than 1.5 metres apart, with many allowing only a couple of people inside at a time.

Despite the measures, Uzun is still concerned as he lives with his parents and is worried about them getting infected.

“But we have to make a living somehow,” he said. “If we get infected it's not a problem, but then when we go home and our kids and parents are at home, that does make you a bit scared.”

By Femke Colborne

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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.