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COVID-19

Europe’s Covid-19 ‘hotspots’ to be sent four million more vaccine doses

The European Union will receive an extra four million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses over the next two weeks to be deployed to Covid-19 "hotspots", European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Europe's Covid-19 'hotspots' to be sent four million more vaccine doses
Photo: AFP/ ECDC

The delivery — over and above already agreed supplies from the vaccine-maker — will go to affected border regions within the bloc to “help ensure or restore free movement of goods and people”, she said in a statement.

The announcement came as the commission attempted to persuade at least six member states — including her home country Germany — to lift virus-related border restrictions deemed by Brussels to be excessive.

It also follows a trip by the leaders of Austria and Denmark to Israel toform a vaccine-producing alliance that exemplified broad criticism of the lack of deliveries so far under the commission’s pre-purchasing scheme.

Von der Leyen said the four million extra BioNTech/Pfizer doses will be delivered “before the end of March” and will help member states deploy “their targeted use where they are most needed, in particular in border regions”.

She said they would go to “tackle aggressive variants of the virus and to improve the situation in hotspots”.

Von der Leyen pointed to steep rises in infections and hospitalisations in Austria’s Tyrol region, France’s Nice and Moselle regions, Bolzano in Italy, and parts of Germany’s Bavaria and Saxony regions.

Those had led to “stringent measures” by some member states “and even in certain cases to impose new border controls,” it said.

The statement pointed out that BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine was showing itself to be “highly effective” against the new variants.

It added that the four million extra doses would be made available for member states to buy according to their population size.

Image by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)

Escalation plans

Von der Leyen called the additional agreement “quick and decisive action” on the part of her commission, and emphasised that restoring freedom of movement within the EU was “key for the functioning of health systems and the Single Market”.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed von der Leyen’s announcement, saying it would mean an additional 46,500 BioNTech/Pfizer doses for his country.

“When they get here, they will be administered quickly,” he tweeted.

The Netherlands’ Deputy Prime Minister Hugo de Jonge tweeted that the extra delivery would mean 169,000 more doses of that vaccine for his country.

France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said the agreement meant “nearly 600,000” extra doses for his country.

EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads a task force to clear vaccine production bottlenecks, said on Tuesday — before von der Leyen’s announcement — that the bloc was expecting delivery of 55 million doses of different vaccines in March.

Von der Leyen has said that deliveries would jump to 100 million doses per month in April, May and June. Her goal is to have 70 percent of adults in the EU fully vaccinated by mid-September.

Member comments

  1. I do not think there is a need for more vaccines in France, they will just stay in the freezer as France can not even efficiently poke away the doses they already have. France is so far behind, with their bureaucratie. They look and say ‘Oops this is a hotspot, just lock the place down’ instead of ‘Emergency here, get pokers organised and start vaccinating everyone who wants in this area’.

  2. No need to give bureaucrate France more vaccines, they can not even poke away the vaccines they already have. Look how far behind France is……. Excuses, excuses, excuses. Hotspot? Every logic person has the solution, Mobilise pokers and vaccinate everyone in this area as a matter of urgency. Those 20 year olds are superspreaders, not the 80 year olds. Not even the naughty ones who stick their nose above their mask. Those masks who if they were the solution would have reduced cases by now! Yesterday 30000 again. Probably a good idea in public transport, now you see single people in cars and outside wear them in areas where there is fine, how much people love their masks……. Sigh.

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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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