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CARNIVAL

Police step up patrols as Germany’s carnival season starts online

Cologne and Düsseldorf are usually visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists on November 11th for the start of Karneval season.

Police step up patrols as Germany's carnival season starts online
Carnival in Cologne on 11.11.2019 - a very different world. Photo: DPA

But this year, events are cancelled.

Due to the pandemic, including the fact that Germany is in a nationwide shutdown for the month of November, the large street parties of carnival can't go ahead.

“Stay at home,” North Rhine-Westphalia interior minister Herbert Reul appealed to citizens. Police will monitor compliance with the coronavirus rules and “consistently intervene in case of violations”, said the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician.

All street celebrations are cancelled this year and a ban on alcohol is in force.

It's a bitter pill for the regions of Germany that celebrate Karneval. It 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).

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. But this year it is set to be quiet.

The cancellation is a huge economic blow – from pubs and restaurants to venues, hotels and costume shops, all have suffered losses.

Police will be on duty with several hundred units to ensure bans are observed. A rally against coronavirus protection regulations has also been registered in the city.

But carnival enthusiasts are sending a special signal opposing these demos: the Rote Funken – the oldest traditional Cologne carnival group – plan to raise a plane with a message banner above the city centre. On one side, it will carry the message: “Bliev zohuss” (stay at home) in the regional language. On the other side it will say “stay healthy” in German.

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'Not a call to party'

In Düsseldorf, the traditional carnival spirit Hoppeditz awakening is taking place in digital form.

The Düsseldorf Carnival Committee set up the hoppeditz.helau.cc website for this purpose. Instead of climbing out of a pot on the square in front of the town hall in front of several thousand spectators, Hoppeditz actor Tom Bauer will give his speech behind closed doors. The traditional response to Hoppeditz will be given by the new Lord Mayor Stephan Keller.

READ ALSO: Düsseldorf Helau! How I embraced the Rhineland's carnival celebrations

Meanwhile, the Bund Deutscher Karneval (BDK) is inviting people across the country to the first digital opening – starting around 11.11 am.

“We still want to be present in these times and bring joy into living rooms,” said BDK President Klaus-Ludwig Fess. But this is not a call to party. “People should stay at home and not go out,” he said.

A programme of events will be offered online at www.karnevaldeutschland.de.

Due to the pandemic, large events are cancelled for the carnival session 2020/21. The BDK has around 2.6 million members in more than 5,300 clubs and guilds throughout Germany.

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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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