‘No dancing, no singing’: Cologne cancels Carnival’s traditional first day

November 11th is always a special day in Cologne - it marks the start of the city’s famous Carnival season. But the city mayor has announced that the Jeken will have to sit out the celebrations this time around.

'No dancing, no singing': Cologne cancels Carnival's traditional first day
A photo from 2015 of revellers at the opening Karneval celebrations. Photo: DPA

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, city mayor Henriette Reker said that the corona pandemic had made it impossible to celebrate the traditional start of the new carnival season.

“We will issue a ban on alcohol consumption and a ban on selling alcohol outside of restaurants on November 11th for the entire day and in the entire city area, in addition to the already existing contact restrictions and closing times,” Reker confirmed.

Reker appealed to all citizens at a press conference in the Historical Town Hall: “We all have to miss out on celebrating on November 11th,” she said. “This time there will be no celebrating, this time there will be no singing, this time there will be no dancing.”

“This year there will be no November 11th celebrations. This year it will just be a day in the calendar like any other day.”

“Please stay at home, everyone,” the mayor appealed to the people of Cologne. “Do not celebrate at home either.”

The rules appear to leave a loophole, meaning private parties could still take place. A spokesperson later clarified that the ban on alcohol refers to public spaces, not to private homes.

Reker also called on people who normally travel to Cologne from other regions to also stay away this time.

Carnival president Christoph Kuckelkorn said that carnival revellers were “deeply sad” about the fact that this time they couldn't bring any colour into the gloomy November.

But he added that “at the same time we are also relieved that we are simply celebrating this day in peace and quiet, remembering how it used to be and looking forward to having it again soon”.

Carnival has been an integral part of life in Cologne and many other Catholic cities since the Middle Ages. It is traditionally a time for satire and tomfoolery, when locals dress up as Jecken (fools) and blow a raspberry at the establishment.

Cologne’s carnival is the biggest in Germany. Millions of people normally turn out on the city’s street during the Rosenmontag parade in late winter.

READ MORE: The rebellious history of Karneval

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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.