Carnival: How Germany is celebrating Rosenmontag in lockdown

Clowns, political floats and lots of shouting: Rosenmontag is usually a massive celebration in parts of Germany. Here's what's happening this year in the pandemic shutdown.

Carnival: How Germany is celebrating Rosenmontag in lockdown
Unna's Helmut Scherer is known for putting on the world's smallest carnival procession, which is pandemic friendly. Photo: DPA

It's fair to say that Rosenmontag is usually one of the biggest street parties in the parts of Germany that celebrate carnival, including Cologne and Düsseldorf.

But – unsurprisingly – this year things are very different. Due to the pandemic and ongoing lockdown restrictions, the big parades are cancelled.

Carnival events are understood to have fuelled the spread of Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic in Germany, leading to a rising number of cases in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) as well as a number of deaths.

READ ALSO: 'You can't cancel carnival': How can Germany celebrate street festival in coronavirus times?

The last time Rosenmontag parades were axed in Düsseldorf and Mainz was in 2016 due to hurricane-force winds.

In Cologne, the last cancelled parade was in 1991: back then, carnival revellers decided to forego the procession because of the Gulf War.

So how are some of these places going to celebrate?

This year although the huge street parties are cancelled, the spirit of carnival is still alive – and many people might just spend the day in fancy dress in their home.

In Cologne there is a very small substitute: from 2pm broadcaster WDR will show the Rosenmontag procession in miniature form – as a production of the Hänneschen puppet theatre.

A 32-metre-long backdrop of Cologne's old town has been erected in the carriage construction hall of the Cologne Carnival Festival Committee.

READ ALSO: The calls you'll hear at Carnival – and what they mean

According to the festival committee, the small procession has everything that its big brother has. This includes floats with motifs, dance groups and, of course, spectators.

The floats by the Hänneschen procession show, among others, the pandemic health experts Karl Lauterbach, Christian Drosten and Hendrik Streeck who have all become high profile this year.

In true Karneval form, they also make fun of habits that emerged this year such as panic buying – Hamsterkauf in German.

A miniature Rosenmontag float showing a hamster with toilet paper rolls in Cologne. Photo: DPA

There is also a ray of hope for the Jecken in Düsseldorf. There, eight designs by famous float builder Jacques Tilly will be on display.

According to the Düsseldorf Carnival Committee, the sculptures will be placed in the city centre for about two hours. They will not be driven through the streets in a convoy, but individually on three different routes.

They're doing it this way because the carnival organisers want to prevent groups of spectators from gathering on streets and rules being violated.

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

'Bang the drum despite lockdown'

Otherwise Rosenmontag is for many people a normal working day in the carnival strongholds this year.

The Cologne University Hospital, however, is giving its employees Rosenmontag as a free “thank you day”. This is to honour the extraordinary commitment of the employees this year.

In the small city of Unna, meanwhile, the celebrations are going ahead as planned. That's because they are pandemic-friendly anyway.

Pensioner Helmut Scherer is known for putting on the world's smallest carnival procession. For more than six decades, he has been parading through the city centre on Rosenmontag by himself (or with a very small crew of one other).

To avoid crowds of spectators at the roadside, the 86-year-old has moved his solo spectacle to the city's hospital grounds this year:

“That way I can also bring a little joy to the patients there during this time,” Scherer told DPA. His motto this year is: “Bang the drum despite lockdown”.

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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.